Guest Post by Colleen O’Day
Today’s workplace isn’t what it used to be—and for many, that’s a very good thing. With younger workers increasingly filling the ranks, there is a growing shift in expectations regarding work-life balance and the role of comprehensive wellness as it relates to employee productivity and growth. This is especially true for millennials—many of whom say they want to be empowered, they want to lead, and they view leadership itself as the empowerment of others. Companies that understand the connection between prioritizing wellness and inspiring leaders within this generation can better position themselves for success.
Wellness, Mental Health, and Stronger Leaders
One key to creating stronger leaders is to understand and meet their needs for comprehensive wellness, which includes physical, emotional, and mental health. Because mental health conditions can be particularly challenging for younger workers, providing essential resources helps to ensure increased well-being and productivity.
Dr. Eric Beeson, a core faculty member in the Online Master of Arts in Counseling Program from The Family Institute at Northwestern University, emphasizes the effectiveness of having mental health support available in the workplace: “I think increasing access to services on-site is the exception, but probably one of the more effective models for employers to incorporate.” He agreed that a healthier workplace saves money, too. “The bottom line is important,” Dr. Beeson said. “I think performance goes up traditionally when people are healthier. It helps you accomplish your mission. It’s an investment in people’s lives as well as in the health of your business.”
In this graphic, the impact is clear:
The Role of Self-Awareness
For both employees and leaders, prioritizing self-awareness is an important element of achieving overall wellness. There are strategies leaders can adopt to support the process, such as understanding the impact of work-related stress on an individual’s health and taking steps to address it. For instance, consider the top five work stress factors revealed in a 2017 poll for the American Psychological Association:
- Low salaries.
- Lack of opportunity for growth or advancement.
- Too heavy a workload.
- Uncertain or undefined job expectations.
- Unrealistic job expectations.
In addition, although one in five employees said mental health problems made them more cynical and negative during the workday and made job challenges more difficult, “Fewer than half of employed adults report that their employer provides the resources needed to meet employees’ mental health needs (48%) and even fewer report receiving sufficient resources from their employers to help manage stress (42%).”
Making the Connection for Elevated Performance
The survey also revealed that feeling valued leads to increased job satisfaction, worker motivation, and a willingness to move toward wellness. “Those who feel valued are also more likely to say they regularly participate in their employer’s wellness programs, training activities, and involvement efforts and are less likely to report chronic work stress or intent to leave the organization in the next year.”
Findings such as these demonstrate the benefits of an environment in which employees are encouraged to both understand and express their needs—and then be empowered through a positive leadership response to meet them. Dr. Beeson offers five simple tips employers can implement to help them do it:
- Create a culture of acceptance.
- Raise awareness about the reality of mental health challenges.
- Support employees through formal training and education.
- Incentivize wellness initiatives.
- Promote wellness in benefits packages.
“I think that the younger folks today have a more holistic view of well-being and are more aware of the importance of work-life balance,” he says. “However, this work-life balance is often challenged with performance demands. Thankfully some organizations are fostering social and emotional health in the workplace, so if folks are going to sacrifice balance, some of these needs can be met in the office.”
Colleen O’Day is a digital marketing manager and supports community outreach for 2U Inc.’s mental health, social work and education programs. Find her on Twitter @ColleenMODay.