Maintaining a strong work culture is vital to running a successful business. Good employees are hard to find, and keeping them engaged and happy requires more than just providing them with wages and benefits. You also need to create a space they enjoy working in so they can be productive and get things done efficiently.
To do this, a focus on mental health is paramount. The state of mental health in the workplace impacts every level of business, and the best way to build a resilient business and promote positive mental health is through culture.
There are Two Types of Environments
Mental health and work culture are intimately intertwined. When employees are engaged in their work and feel valued, they are more likely to be excited about their jobs and less likely to suffer from poor mental health. In addition, when employees feel they have a say in how things get done, they're more likely to trust co-workers and management, leading to increased collaboration, greater job satisfaction, better productivity, and lower turnover rates.
A strong culture may also provide defined support available for those who need it–whether that means having someone talk through problems over lunch or attending regular workshops on managing stress during challenging times at work.
In contrast, when employees feel overworked, neglected, or unsupported, the work culture may be to blame. A negative culture is one where employees are afraid to speak up or don't trust others in the office. This can lead to poor communication between teams or departments, which – among many other complications - can cause problems with delivering projects on time (or at all).
Destigmatize Mental Health
To cultivate a mental-health-focused culture, start by destigmatizing mental health at work so that people feel comfortable discussing it openly and honestly. Employers who actively demonstrate their dedication to good mental health and provide programs and initiatives - like those that help employees manage stressors, share their experiences, or access support – find that this alone reduces stigma and misunderstanding.
Cultivate Psychological Safety
As the name suggests, Psychological Safety is the idea that all employees feel comfortable taking risks, making mistakes, and sharing their thoughts with others in the organization. You'll see better collaboration, stronger workplace relationships, and higher productivity when this happens.
To cultivate psychological safety, employers and leaders should focus on implementing the following practices and frameworks:
- Engage in open communication and invite feedback
- Establish clear expectations
- Foster inclusion and opportunities for participation
- Encourage (and practice) vulnerability and candor
- Exercise constructive conflict management
Lead with Values
Many people look to their work to provide a sense of meaning and fulfillment. After all, most people don't like to feel like they are merely a cog in a machine. A culture that embodies and taps into larger values such as teamwork, innovation, or altruism tends to resonate more deeply than just focusing on policies (such as how much vacation time workers get).
Give People What They Need to Thrive (Not Just Survive)
A few additional factors can significantly influence employees' work satisfaction and, in turn, their mental health.
Burnout, though often associated with overwhelm, can occur just as (or more) often when experiencing a chronic sense of detachment, boredom, ineffectiveness, and lack of accomplishment. Frequent challenges and growth opportunities are vital for continuous engagement and can positively impact mental health.
A culture that bestows greater autonomy allows individuals the freedom to work in a way that works best for them. Everyone is different – so rather than conform to one type of working style or arrangement, employees decide how and when their work will be done. Employees with greater autonomy at work report higher levels of job satisfaction and more positive mental health states. In addition, autonomy also provides other, far-reaching benefits such as:
- Boosting self-reliance and confidence
- Fostering a culture of trust
- Employees for more valued
- Promoting leadership qualities and skill development
- Encouraging creativity and productivity
- Improving employee retention
Unsurprisingly, work/life imbalances can negatively impact mental health. What a healthy balance looks like will be different for everyone. The important thing is for everyone to feel comfortable taking breaks from their daily grind now and again to recharge their batteries. It's good policy to offer "mental health days" and let people know that taking advantage of them is not merely allowed but encouraged.
One of the most important parts of cultivating a good mental health culture is for leaders and managers to be intentional about creating a workplace where people feel valued and supported. Start by looking at what kind of workplace culture you have now—and if it needs improvement—and then figure out how best to change it from there.
However, it's not just about taking action—it's also about starting the conversation, and this can sometimes be the most challenging part.
The good news is that a greater global focus on mental health has prompted the creation of advanced resources for employers and individuals alike. This increased access and availability to helpful tools, content, and guidance makes implementation more manageable and more likely to succeed.
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