By Dr. Sarah Cotton
A wellbeing strategy is no longer about free fruit and yoga classes.
There is nothing wrong providing employees with healthy food and opportunities to exercise per se, but ad-hoc perks don’t cut it when it comes to protecting employees’ mental health three years into a pandemic.
People are experiencing burnout and fatigue at rates we haven’t seen before. We won’t list the concerns we are hearing from organisations, but generally speaking, people aren’t thriving right now.
In times of transition, we can often become stuck in the ‘liminal space.’ Liminal refers to the middle part of a transition when we move from one state to another. It can feel challenging and uncomfortable. We’ve been stuck in this state for nearly three years. And as we find ourselves potentially on the verge of yet another coronavirus wave, it can feel like we’re taking one step forward, two steps back.
While many of us are limping toward the finish line this year, we encourage leaders to take stock of what mental health interventions are working (or not) in the organisation. Psych regulations are changing, and employers are legally obliged to create a mentally healthy workplace for all workers. We believe supporting people through life’s transitions (including the pandemic) is key to retaining and attract talent. Now is the time to put a plan in place for the protection of people’s mental health. Our co-founder, Dr. Sarah Cotton shares her tips on how to create a meaningful wellbeing strategy for 2023.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen a huge shift in how we address mental health in the workplace. Pre-pandemic, many organisations considered Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) a catch-all for tackling a range of individual mental health concerns. What we know as mental health practitioners is that people often only seek EAP support when they reach a crisis point. The ideal scenario is to create a positive environment where EAPs are just one arm of a multi-pronged approach that fosters a mentally healthy environment.
The trap we see many leaders falling into is creating initiatives based on a reaction to current mental health and well-being challenges in the organisation. This isn’t surprising, given the reactionary environment we’ve been operating in over the last few years. But now we have breathing space, designing a proactive plan can help protect the mental health of your workers now and in the future.
When considering a wellbeing strategy or revising an existing one, we encourage leaders to consider a holistic and intergenerational approach.
Supporting people to do their best work at all life’s ages and stages is a compelling way to attract and retain quality employees. People now expect to be able to work in a way that suits them. Whether they be graduates, parents or carers, experiencing a health condition, or simply wanting a better way to balance life and work. Employers who understand this mindset and support their people undergoing all of life’s transitions will be highly sought after as we move into future ways of working.
We know that leaders set the tone for employee behaviour in an organisation. You could have the best mental health initiatives in the world, but if you don’t have a leader-led culture to support them, uptake will remain low. That adage, you can’t be what you can’t see, also rings true when it comes to workplace mental health.
Executive buy-in along with manager training to help foster an inclusive environment is crucial to the success of your workplace wellbeing strategy beyond a ‘tick-box’ approach.
Looking for help to build a well-being strategy in your organisation? We can help! Connect with our team here.