Helping employees maintain good mental well-being is just as important as physical health, and it’s crucial for fostering an empathetic workplace.
It’s estimated that 42 million people in America are dealing with a form of anxiety, and 16 million adults are affected by depression. These numbers demonstrate that mental health is a serious issue, and as employers, we can’t expect that our employees leave these problems at the door when they come to work.
And yet, people shy away from openly discussing these issues. The 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study found that 8 in 10 employees say that companies view someone with a mental health issue as weak or a burden. On top of that, 68% believe that reaching out for help could negatively impact their job security.
These numbers are striking, and they explain why our latest empathy study found that only one-third of employees experiencing a mental health issue in the last year reached out for help at work. But supporting mental health in the workplace is increasingly important — for reducing absenteeism, improving employee engagement, and fostering an empathetic work environment.
All of those factors benefit employees and employers alike. When employees’ total well-being is taken into account, they are more productive and less likely to miss work. Employees are also more likely to stay with an employer who empathizes with their needs — over 90% of employees say they would stay with an empathetic employer, and in today’s tight labor market, empathy can give employers an edge in reducing costly turnover.
So, how can employers support their workforce’s mental health? Our latest State of Workplace Empathy Study highlights actions that can make a difference for employees’ mental well-being:
- Be flexible. We have four generations actively working today, and all of them are balancing many obligations. Those in the “Sandwich Generation” are serving as caregivers for both younger and older relatives, while parents must balance work and childcare. As a result, employees consistently report that flexibility for handling family and medical issues is vital for workplace empathy. In 2019, over 90% of workers in all job roles said flexible working hours showed empathy, so consider implementing flexible scheduling to reduce employees’ stress and facilitate their work-life balance.
- Offer benefits for total well-being. Benefits can make a critical difference when it comes to showing empathy. In fact, 95% of employees say benefits are effective for demonstrating empathy. Make sure your benefits package takes an employee's total well-being into account by including coverage options for physical health, mental health, and financial wellness. Student loan debt and rising medical costs are two of many financial pressures that can negatively affect employees’ stress and engagement at work. Your benefits should accommodate the needs of today’s diverse workforce.
- Make everyone feel welcome. The 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study revealed that nearly a quarter of employees don’t feel there is a true sense of belonging in their workplace. This disconnection can lead to loneliness, which is increasingly problematic in today's world. Ensuring that all employees feel welcome at your organization and embracing the diversity of our workforce are important to fostering empathy and overcoming isolation. With so much of our time spent at our work, this is more important than ever.
- Keep the door open. Texting, emailing, instant messaging — all of these are great for fast communication, but nothing replaces face-to-face conversations. In fact, 95% of employees say face-to-face communications are most empathetic. Make sure your organization’s leadership has an open-door policy so employees know they can discuss issues or problems at any time. By being open and honest about stress, anxiety, or any other mental health issues, we can overcome lingering stigmas around mental health and support true well-being for our workforce.
Want to learn more about how you can improve mental health in your workplace?