Although there are still some leaders who stick to the antiquated notion that they should expect their people to perform high quality work regardless of the environment, more and more organizations are acknowledging the benefits of focusing on culture.
Nowadays, savvy leaders recognize that promoting emotional wellness isn’t a mere “touchy-feely” agenda item that they have to do begrudgingly in order to placate their employees. Instead, they recognize that there are many business benefits that come from putting an emphasis on employee well-being.
A review of the research suggests that employees with a sense of well-being tend to be more productive. Happier employees are more engaged with the work that they’re doing, and, for those in client-facing roles, that translates into better customer service. Research also shows that employees who experience more positive emotions make better leaders, are more successful at sales, more resilient, and better colleagues.
How Can Employers Help?
Although each individual is obviously responsible to determining how best to achieve a sense of well-being, there several things that employers can do to create an environment that is supportive of employees’ emotional health. See some suggestions below:
1. Keep workloads manageable
Although this one seems like a given, it’s one that employers often neglect in the quest to get more done with less. However, if employees have more work than they are able to comfortably handle, it can create a sense of pressure and contribute to workaholism. Overwork not only takes diminishes emotional health, it can also decrease work performance because people tend to be less productive when they are experiencing high levels of stress.
Therefore, as a boss it’s essential to check in with your employees to make sure their workloads are reasonable. And, to help them to manage their responsibilities coach them to ensure that they are prioritizing and delegating appropriately.
2. Emphasize the Importance of Taking Vacations
Another way employers can support organizational emotional health is by making sure their employees take time away from the office. And, while it would seem that employees would be clamoring to have some time off from work, a survey by Project Time Off found that over half of American employees didn’t use all of their vacation time. Although there were a number of reasons for leaving vacation time on the table (i.e. finances, concern about returning to a pile of work, feeling that others can’t do their job), a staggering 80% of employees reported that they would be more likely to take time off if they felt that their bosses supported it. Therefore, if you want your employees to manage their stress, encourage them to use their vacation time – and reinforce that message by making sure to take time off yourself.
3. Make sure employees have a chance to disconnect
Our laptops and smartphones provide us with convenience and flexibility, however, they also make us available around the clock. Research suggests that when employees are available 24-7, they are more prone to burnout in the workplace. Being unable to disconnect also tends to decrease their sense of autonomy (a major contributor to work stress), because they feel that they can never escape from their work responsibilities. Further, the effects often trickle over into personal lives by causing conflict in the home, because they’re not fully present with their families.
To combat this, consider setting organizational boundaries regarding after-hours emails. And again, watch the example you’re setting as a leader by refraining from sending emails in the evenings, unless they’re really necessary.
4. Make it easier for Employees to engage in self-care
Employers can also help to increase emotional wellness amongst their employees by encouraging them to take time for self-care. For example, one company that I consult to has Wellness Wednesdays, in which employees are encouraged to wear gym clothes to the office so that they can work out. Others have mindfulness programs, which encourage employees to learn how breathing, meditation, and an intentional approach to life can help them to manage stress. Others have ditched the office candy dish and replaced it with nutritious snacks to promote a healthy lifestyle.
When employees are able to care for their minds, bodies, and spirits, they come to work less stressed, and better able to perform up to their potentials.
5. Encourage employees to build meaningful relationships
Lately, we are learning more and more about the negative effects of loneliness in the workplace. Lonely employees are less productive, less engaged, and more likely to miss work. However, employers can help to combat this, by making it easier for employees to build relationships with one another.
To help employees to build connections, aim to create a culture that encourages friendships by promoting communication, collaboration, and psychological safety. Encourage people to get to know one another. Some ways to do this include featuring employees on the intranet, taking time for employee celebrations (like birthdays and work anniversaries), celebrating successes, and providing opportunities to get together outside of work (like lunches or volunteer activities).
Again, as a leader it’s important to set a good example, by taking a personal interest in your employees. Make sure to take time at the beginning of meetings to allow people to chat with one another. You might also consider bringing in a professional to conduct formal team building. I’ve facilitated a lot of team building sessions, and a common piece of feedback that I hear is that employees really enjoy the opportunity to get to know their colleagues on a deeper level. Not only does it help them to build relationships, it also helps them to better understand one another’s work styles – and that’s key for effective functioning.
6. Show an Interest in Your Employees’ Development
When I ask employees about their favorite bosses, they commonly tell me that they experienced the most growth working for leaders who took an interest in their career success. Therefore, to be a supportive leader, make sure to ask your employees about their career aspirations and what motivates them.
Then, with that information in mind, strive to give them opportunities that can help them to accomplish those goals. When employees know that their employers care about them and are committed to helping them to be successful, it can be incredibly motivating, create a greater sense of loyalty to the company, and increase their level of engagement on the job.
Focusing on boosting your employees’ emotional wellness is a win-win proposition. Your staff will be happier and more engaged, and your organization will have a competitive advantage.
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