May, a.k.a Mental Health Awareness Month, is just around the corner. If you’re a People and Culture leader or a mental health advocate, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prioritize mental health in your organization:
- Is a lunch-and-learn session really enough?
- Would I get the budget approved for bigger wellness events?
- Will employees even care if I make something happen?
- When will the next season of ‘Love is Blind’ air?
Okay, maybe the last one is just us.
We understand - getting your organization to invest in mental health programming can be a challenge. But, in these trying times when we are navigating layoffs, preparing for a potential recession, and figuring out Chat GPT, companies need to prioritize employee well-being.
Although employers have started to implement measures such as mental health days, four-day workweeks, and improved counselling benefits, they have proven insufficient. According to a 2022 Gallup survey, just 24% of employees strongly believe that their employer values their well-being. It's not surprising that "quiet quitting" became one of the most commonly used phrases in the workplace in 2022.
Changing this grim reality requires leaders to take on the work of prioritizing mental health initiatives in May and beyond. Yes, this task is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible.
Enter Jennifer and Steve from Pause+Expand. We hosted a workshop with this duo that has brought mental health to the forefront of 100+ organizations in the past two years.
Their wellness events employ unique visualization, sound, and meditation techniques that boost productivity, team building, and employee well-being. Jennifer and Steve acknowledged that while important, these initiatives were not easy to implement at first. Together, we explored ways to spark a wellness movement within your organization:
Every change needs a change agent. Consider becoming one for your organization, regardless of your job description. Yes, it’s a demanding cape to wear, but it will benefit not only your organization, but also create a culture that you enjoy. Best part? You don’t have to do this alone - partner with fellow change agents like Pause + Expand to help you on this journey.
Describe your company’s culture with a food item - is it wholesome like indulgent poutine or uncomfortable like pickle and peanut butter sandwiches (yes, it’s a thing!)? It’s important to understand your organization’s culture and your colleagues' understanding of mental health. This will dictate the type of initiatives you propose and how well they resonate with your team.
With hybrid/remote/work from Mars options, there’s a high chance that your team works out of different locations and time zones. Even if that’s not the case, finding a day and time that works for the whole organization is no easy feat. It’s important to map out how an initiative like this would really work - can events be recorded and enjoyed asynchronously? Can you do multiple sessions for different time zones? Can you run one in person, one online?
Resist the urge to go straight to your leadership team to demand a wellness events budget (if you don't have one already). Slow and steady is the way to go for long-term transformation. As our friends at Compt emphasize in their resource, Employee Well-being: A Definitive Guide, start with your own team - maybe try weekly team meditations, sharing mental health resources on Slack, or something as simple as adding 5-minute mental health check-ins at the start of each meeting. Once you’ve organically grown a community and established interest in this, you can justify the budget required to scale.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to mental health programming at work. Sound bath meditations may work for you, but someone else may prefer a mental health walk. It’s key to keep experimenting and trying new initiatives, so that there’s something for everyone. The more you can get people to relate, the more they’ll want to continue.
When you do get to a point where your company is hosting events to support employee wellbeing, make sure you send out surveys after to get people’s feedback. This can help optimize your efforts and provide evidence if impact, to help scale your initiatives from a one-off event to a longer-term program.
Weaving long-term sustainable wellness practices into your company’s core values is a great way to ensure that mental health remains a priority. While this may take time and effort, it positively impacts employee well-being, team building, and the bottom line. In fact, a Deloitte survey found that companies with mental health programs in place for one year will on average, produce a yearly ROI of $1.62 for every $1 invested. This result increases to $2.18 after three years. Cha-ching!
The proof is in the pudding, and we hope you can bring both to your workplace this year. Wellness events - big or small - can have a huge impact in showing your team that you value their wellbeing. That you're invested in it.