Most people spend one third of their lives at work and the workplace culture they experience can shape their habits and health, which has a direct link on their performance. We have known this for decades. Hello, corporate health programs, employee assistance programs, bowls of shiny fruit and flexible working options. Innovative HR teams are doing everything in their control to create mentally and physically healthy employees (or so they think).
Most companies under utilise their greatest asset, their people. When employees experience trust, respect and co-worker care they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work – their big ideas, passions and ideas. These are the hallmarks of a psychologically safe culture and proven drivers of innovation and growth.
Research by Google on their workforce has revealed that psychological safety was the most important team characteristic for high-performance. In Australia, mental health issues effect one in five and they are unfortunately stigmatised at work. A clear strategy for building psychological safety presents a huge opportunity for organisations to drive both individual wellness and business success. Because, healthier people create healthier businesses, relationships and communities.
1) Proactive Employee Experience design
When it comes to employees, their experience and the work environment counts. Designing a human-centric workplace where people can do their best work and be their best selves is important to driving the right behaviours and desired outputs. Many organisations leave this to chance or focus on cost saving factors masquerading as collaboration (e.g. activity-based working). Think about the hygiene factors such as music, noise, natural light, break out and social spaces. These are easy fixes that can have a big impact on productivity and how people connect with each other at work.
Going beyond surroundings there are other hygiene factors that need to be addressed. Make sure employees have easy access to available programs and policies. Employee handbooks, corporate values and behaviour codes help to set the tone and expectations of life at work. While phone counselling services and mental health programs are there to offer support when needed.
2) Reset expectations around care
Most organisations are performance-led and use lagging metrics like tenure, employee engagement and absenteeism to measure the success of the employee-employer relationship. However, leading organisations are shifting their focus to creating environments where people feel like they belong and are cared for.
When people feel like an organisation truly has their best interests at heart, they are more likely to be more engaged with and strive for the best company outcomes. This approach takes reputation into account too. If people feel at home in a workplace, they are more likely to become advocates which positively impacts the consumer and the talent market long after they’ve left the business.
3) Build leadership vulnerability
There is still significant stigma around mental health issues in the workplace. To overcome these issues we need leaders to do what they should do best, lead by example. To do this, they need to create psychological safety by moving past the boundaries that keep people emotionally separate at work; hierarchical thinking, experience and expertise. Leaders should talk about the importance of mental health, be available to have real conversations with people and talk about their own journey if they can.
Healthy employees (and workplaces) start with the realisation that each employee can impact the psychological safety of the whole organisation. It’s up to all of us in leadership to create culture of care and an environment where people can be mentally well and thrive together.
Simple resources on how to support colleagues at work are available via R U OK Day?
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into how we can help your organisation build a culture of care, email firstname.lastname@example.org and book in a cuppa.
September 11, 2019, We Are Unity