The pace of workplace change in recent years is enough to give even the nimblest HR departments whiplash. Since 2020, the job market pendulum swung from a competitive talent landscape to a macroeconomic downturn where employers had the upper hand.
Now, the way forward is right down the middle. Aligning company performance and employee wellness drives better outcomes for people and businesses.
Ines Räth believes the positive correlation between great performance and mental health is often unseen or misunderstood. She’s the co-founder and co-CEO of nilo.health, a mental health partner that gives companies access to high-quality care and helps them drive a proactive strategic stance on the issue.
Räth and Lattice’s head of sales Jonathan Chemouny shared how to give employees what they need to perform their best — and why investing in mental wellness is a great business decision.
Why a Healthy Workplace Is a Productive Workplace
How do people view their company’s approach to performance and wellness? In a Lattice and YouGov survey of 1,000 UK employees, just one in five respondents said they always understood their employer’s performance expectations, while over 50% reported some degree of burnout. What’s more, 38% of burned-out employees said they don’t believe their employer actually cares about their wellbeing.
These results highlight a major opportunity for improvement on both the people-centric and company-centric fronts. When asked what they needed to be able to deliver their best work and be more productive, survey respondents ranked five key factors this way:
- Feeling trusted by managers and superiors
- Flexible working policies
- Clearly defined responsibilities
- Regular praise and recognition
- A positive and inclusive company culture
This formula for a productive workplace includes elements of performance and wellness, which Chemouny attested to on behalf of his sales team: “I know they’re doing a fantastic job when they're feeling good [and] when everything is positive.”
Smart Advice for Prioritizing Mental Health
Understanding the positive correlation between performance and mental health is only the beginning. But how can HR departments bring this new approach to life? Räth said that building a workplace culture where people feel safe to speak up is essential.
“If you don’t make people feel comfortable talking about challenges they might have or boundaries that have been crossed, it’s going to be really hard to make them engage [on other things],” Räth explained. Lattice research agreed, finding that one of the most common reasons employees don’t make use of available support is because they don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health and wellness in the workplace.
Companies have long stigmatized mental health, which is why Räth believes that there should be an open discussion about it that starts from the top. When leaders and managers show vulnerability, they create an environment of trust and encourage their employees to follow suit.
Chemouny is building a high-performing team by prioritizing mental health and wellness, and he focuses on four areas:
- Define goals and set clear expectations. Chemouny shares his vision with his team during a kickoff meeting, setting metrics and pacing goals. Regular group meetings help everyone align around a common objective and resolve problems.
- Celebrate successes. Positive reinforcement encourages employees to try again in the future, which can have a positive impact on their performance and sense of fulfillment. Chemouny says he even uses trophies as a fun way to reward good results at kickoff.
- Share feedback. Leaders should ensure that constructive feedback is highly specific with actionable takeaways. Chemouny admits these things may sound basic, but they build morale and trust in a team.
- Invest in career development. He has monthly conversations with his team to discuss their growth and next steps. Most employees want to grow in their roles, so enabling them to learn new skills and pursue professional development can give them agency and satisfaction in their role at the company.
Chemouny called this process a work in progress. But most importantly, he said his employees “are more aligned, understand the impact, and are having fun.”
How Investing in Mental Health Makes Good Business Sense
Investing in employee wellness requires an economic discussion between HR and the C-suite about cost-effectiveness and business outcomes. For Räth, the case is clear. She said that poor mental health is a huge cost to companies, influenced by three quantifiable factors:
- Presenteeism. An occurrence that’s become increasingly prominent in recent years, presenteeism is when an employee shows up but doesn’t work at their full capacity due to poor mental health.
- Absences. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, UK workplace absences are at an all-time high, and mental health is a leading factor.
- Attrition risk. When employees are struggling, retention decreases and the risk of losing employees becomes much more severe.
Chemouny pointed out that employee attrition due to poor mental health has additional costs for companies outside of these factors. When the departing employee is a manager or highly-specialized worker, replacing them can cost the organization as much as 400% of that person’s annual salary. If they’re a salesperson, that cost is compounded by lost revenue and the time to get a new person up to speed.
With such a high price tag on attrition, the argument for investing in mental health and wellness makes itself clear: It’s good for employees, good for productivity, and good for the bottom line.
This article features ideas from “Breaking Barriers: Achieving Peak Performance With a Healthy Mind,” the eighth installment of our webinar series, For the Love of People. Visit our library of on-demand webinars for more.