Wellness and well-being are commonly associated with physical health, but in a country where one in five adults is being treated for a diagnosed mental health disorder, emotional well-being is becoming an increasing point of emphasis in the wellness arena.
High emotional well-being—loosely defined as the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times—among employees is a key to overall workforce wellness. Individuals with high emotional well-being are resilient, they are equipped to bounce back from mistakes and manage stress. Those with low emotional well-being are at risk for substance use, depression,or anxiety.
If employers focus on employee emotional health, the results can lead to employees who perform better and feel better. In fact, a 2020 study found that companies that invest in well-being programs are seven times more likely to report increased innovation and creativity.
A healthier workforce includes supporting an employee’s mental health, and here are some key steps to creating an effective employee emotional wellness program at a business of just about any size.
In terms of emotional well-being, eliminating barriers for your employees can be a major benefit. That can be as simple as offering access to apps that focus on meditation, mindfulness or even cognitive behavioral therapy. But there are steps employers can take immediately to reduce stress, promote innovation and improve morale within their teams.
Google is often cited as an example of a company with a strong culture of psychological safety. Their Project Aristotle study found that the number one predictor of team success was psychological safety. What made Google’s teams successful was not the individual employees’ IQs or skill sets, but rather their willingness to take risks, give and receive feedback and learn from their mistakes.
Employers can foster this type of environment by encouraging open communication, risk-taking and feedback by establishing trust and giving employees a voice.
Employees should feel that their opinions are valued and that they have a say in decisions that affect them. They should feel comfortable freely communicating, giving and receiving feedback without fear of reprisal or judgment. This can happen only when employees feel their contributions are respected and that they can trust their managers and colleagues.
Open communication and trust encourages employees to feel comfortable taking a risk without fear of failure. This is often when inspiration and innovation occur.
Increased focus on emotional well-being may require a culture shift, and that starts at the top. That means creating a culture in which it is okay to discuss stress. This type of culture should promote work-life balance and focus on flexibility in scheduling.
Leaders have the power to codify this environment through the creation of psychological safety norms and establishing ground rules that everyone on the team agrees to follow. These norms should be revisited regularly and updated as needed.
Some examples of psychological safety norms or ground rules are:
It’s not enough to dictate these behaviors, leaders must model the behaviors they want to see in their employees. If a leader models the desired behavior, it will encourage employees to do the same. A leader who is open and transparent with their team is more likely to create an environment of trust, and a leader who encourages risk-taking and innovation is more likely to create a productive and successful team.
Creating a psychologically safe work environment is essential for any business leader who wants to create a thriving company. By encouraging innovation, fostering transparency and creating an environment of trust, you can set your company up for success.
Leadership buy-in is critical, and it’s important for key stakeholders to be given insight on how psychological/emotional well-being increases employee engagement, productivity and retention. Additional soft metrics can help employers assess the value and success of wellness efforts.
As you implement changes, consider a regular, anonymous employee survey to get feedback on their experiences throughout the year. Do they feel more or less stressed than the previous quarter? Do they feel safe suggesting an idea even if it isn’t perfect? What level of trust do they have in their managers? Do they see their colleagues more as collaborators or competitors?
Managers who frequently interact with their teams can also offer insight through personal observations. Do they notice employees speaking up in meetings more than before? Are issues more easily and more efficiently resolved? Does team morale appear to be on the rise?
Establishing clear definitions of success will help employers identify potential weak points in well-being programming, offering an opportunity to learn from mistakes, look for improvement opportunities and generate overall better outcomes.
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