Ben Shaw, Head of Strategy
For a long time, many workplaces have perpetuated the idea that asking for support is perceived as weak and that burnout equates to failure. Yet one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year, and 88% of UK workers have felt at least a degree of burnout over the past two years. To give everyone the chance to thrive in the workplace, businesses must offer adequate mental health and wellbeing support.
All employees need different levels of support to thrive, or to work in an adjusted environment. Identifying desired attributes and characteristics is common practice in recruitment and talent management, but genuinely enabling employees to meet those expectations and be their best can often be overlooked. Enshrining mental health and wellbeing in your culture, rather than using programmes as a means to remedy the impacts of cultural issues, will help you get more out of every individual.
Here are three of the biggest benefits we’ve identified from taking a culture-led approach to mental health and wellbeing.
1. Building healthy resilience
Any organisation needs to be resilient. And in some companies, particularly those with competitive cultures, individual resilience can be at the very heart of thriving in your culture. But resilience can become a dirty word, focused on the ability to shrug off anything that’s bothering you and to keep going, no matter what. If organisations need resilience but fail to manage the emotional stress their people face, it can be a recipe for burnout and attrition.
To us, true resilience benefits both the employees and businesses. Wellness and support programmes, and a culture where using resources is widely encouraged, helps your people unlock skills and coping mechanisms that allow them to thrive even in challenging periods – helping them maintain their ‘can do’ mindset. Recoding your culture helps you move away from toxic productivity and make resilience work for you.
2. Protecting high performance
In creative, fast-changing cultures, a good mental health and wellbeing programme acts as a valve – releasing pressure before it all gets too much. With lots of big ideas and ambition flying around, change is often the only constant and there can be pressure for people to be innovative and creative every day.
Such a fluid working environment can be exhausting. It can be even harder for employees that come from a traditional company to adjust, leaving businesses that embody the ‘innovation culture’ struggling with mass resignations and burnout. We’ve also noticed a phenomenon in large, well-established organisations where fatigue is so deeply rooted in the organisation that people resist any form of change – even when it is fundamentally positive.
Strong support and easily accessible assistance can proactively diffuse the stress and mental toll of constant creativity. Embedding the right measures into your business will allow your people to thrive and shake off the chronic fatigue they feel around work – and, for younger organisations, prevent it setting in altogether.
3. Supporting human connection
A more flexible approach to work is one of the most positive consequences of the pandemic. Some workers thrive without the distractions of an office and love having more time to themselves. But for those who are living alone, and often spending their whole day at home, loneliness and social isolation can be a huge problem.
Wellbeing initiatives are often driven by in-person human interaction. But a lunchtime yoga session, puppy playtime or on-premises coaches do little to help remote workers, who may need the support most. It’s vital your programmes are inclusive and have the power to impact all.
Culture can also have a huge impact on making remote workers feel supported. The pandemic taught us to be lonely, but there are many ways to keep the spark of human connection alive even when we’re apart. Virtual coffee mornings, online exercise classes and telehealth services like counselling ensure everyone feels part of your organisation and has what they need to stay well and perform at their best.
Moving closer to your target culture
Some employees will inherently need more support than others during different periods of their working life. A difficult personal time or lifelong mental illness will only prevent someone from being a brilliant employee if employers don’t have the culture and structures in place to accommodate them. Making tailored and considered resources available, and openly encouraging people to use them, ensures every unique personality can bring their most comfortable and productive self to work.
If you take one thing from this post, make it this: if you want your wellbeing support to be effective, it needs to be ingrained in your culture. The measures you put in place should reflect your target culture. If you’re looking to build a resilient culture, or a dynamic, incredibly creative culture, offer tools and resources geared towards these challenges. Your programmes will likely change with time, but the notion of offering pre-emptive and readily available support shouldn’t.
At People Made, we advise businesses at all stages of growth to define their company culture.
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