Improving Organizational Culture to Support Employee Well-being

Guest Contributorby Dominique Jones | Posted | Culture

Improving Organizational Culture to Support Employee Well-being

Each year, the World Health Organization recognizes World Mental Health Day on October 10th to help raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. At some point in our lives, we all have either directly or indirectly experienced the challenges of mental health. The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease".

The effects of mental health are well-documented, ranging from sleep deprivation and high levels of anxiety to substance abuse and depression. Awareness is but a first step towards ensuring people keep a healthy mind, and the stigma surrounding mental health is diminished.

The workplace is one such place where awareness is important. After all, the work-life balance is delicate, particularly today where many organizations allow flexible work arrangements so people can work from the office, at home, and anywhere in between. As much as we might like to believe there’s a way for us to compartmentalize home stressors and work stressors, it’s not that easy. How we face stress and anxiety at work impacts our personal lives, and how we face stress and anxiety in our personal lives impacts our work.  

It’s about organizational culture

In 2015, the American Psychological Association Center for Organizational Excellence found that the majority of workers do not have mental health and stress management resources available to them through their employer. Forty-five percent of respondents reported that their employer provides resources to help meet mental health needs and 37 percent report receiving sufficient resources from their employers to help manage stress.

Wellness programs and open door policies, despite their best intentions, cannot support the well-being of employee mental health all on their own. Of course, offering free healthy lunch options, hosting a variety of sports and social activities, or having flexible work arrangements, are great perks. These perks can all certainly help with improving morale, engagement, and retention in your organization, but they’re only one part of the grander picture.

How ongoing performance management can help employees

To truly have a positive impact on employee mental health, it’s entirely up to organizations to create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing personal experiences with the confidence that the organization is properly equipped to help manage and get a handle on sensitive issues.

This environment of support and compassion starts at the top, with the leaders of an organization. They set the tone for the rest of the staff by paying attention and making a conscious effort to support employee well-being.

Creating a culture of support is intentional

A recent article by Bill Howatt from Morneau Sheppel in the Globe & Mail discusses the growing trend among HR leaders to determine what traditional engagement surveys really tell them about employees. This paragraph in particular talks about aspects of ongoing performance management and what this practice does for the general well-being of employees:

“There’s a movement to provide employees real time feedback and coaching that can help them improve their engagement, cope with workplace stress, improve attendance, and deal with their total health. The belief is that employees own their health and career. If employees are going to be asked for information to help their employer, this same time can be used for employees to consider what they can control.”

Employee well-being, which includes physical, emotional, and mental well-being should be intertwined within a talent management strategy that takes any available opportunity to observe employee well-being and performance.

Use regular one-on-one conversation to check-in and check-out

The American Psychological Association recommends employees have open conversations with their supervisors. They importantly note that “the purpose of this isn't to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you've identified, so you can perform at your best on the job.”

This is where one-on-one meetings can serve a dual purpose. Before diving into conversations about work, use the first few minutes of one-on-one meetings to “check-in” about what’s going on personally and the last few minutes to “check-out”.

Checking-in and checking-out offers the opportunity to talk about any experiences that might be impacting their ability to be present. The questions are designed to uncover how someone is feeling, such as:

  • How are you feeling?
  • Is there anything that might distract you during our conversation?
  • How are you feeling after our talk?

Asking these questions on a regular basis ensures employees and their managers can keep tabs on how individuals are handling whatever might be going on personally, setting expectations and managing workloads appropriately.

Ongoing performance management helps put people first

Organizations can create an environment, led by the actions of its leaders, where all aspects of employee well-being are supported by taking the time to understand how each individual handles and responds to various stressors in and out of work, and provides them with the necessary resources to get the support they need.

This is why Starbucks Canada’s announcement earlier this week is being lauded as a significant step to bring awareness and support for overall employee well-being. Starbucks Canada increased its mental-health benefits from $400 to $5,000 per year for all employees who work 20 or more hours a week, as well as their dependents. It's one of the largest contributions of its kind ever in the country's history.

According to Sara Presutto, VP of HR of Starbucks Canada, the idea for the benefit came out a series of forums with employees last summer where mental health was the number one topic they wanted to talk about. “The most important thing we can do is offer a safe and welcoming work environment that supports our partners every day and especially in times of need,” says Presutto in an interview with Benefits Canada.

One of the main benefits of ongoing performance management is that it provides an opportunity to support employees and mitigate potential issues they may be facing before they get worse. At the very least, it creates an environment where employees can feel safe and supported, and their well-being is really what matters the most.

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It’s Everyone’s Job to Care

Learn how job descriptions can help support your talent strategy and create a supportive environment for your employees.


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