The link between absenteeism and employee churn rates with mental wellbeing is generally understood. We know that our job can have a significant and lasting effect on the way we feel in and out of the workplace. For most employers, the power of offering the right mix of mental health support for employees is also recognised; most organisations now see a strong link between staff wellbeing and productivity.
Now, it seems some employers are realising that mental health support has an even greater role to play. In the midst of an ongoing ‘Great Resignation’, offering a mental wellbeing ‘ecosystem’ to suit individual employees is slowly being recognised as a powerful way to attract and retain talent.
Instead of offering big bucks to appeal to new talent and keep the ‘stayers’ happy, employers are offering emotional support as a big draw for job seekers with new priorities. It’s no longer about free fruit and duvet days; the world has moved on and people are asking for something more.
As Ann Francke, chief executive officer of the CMI, said recently: “Just offering big budget salaries isn’t cutting it anymore,” stating that employees are looking for new roles that “meet their changing demands and aspirations.”
I would argue that in the wake of a global pandemic and as the war in Ukraine continues, many job seekers have changed their outlook. We’ve all had a period of reflection, and workplaces must change to suit the ‘new normal’. Of course people need to pay their bills – but they also need to feel valued. Indeed, according to a recent report from Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose and PwC, a huge 70% of employees would consider leaving their employer for a more fulfilling role.
We know that many employees have experienced burnout and stress, especially over the pandemic when work and home may seem to have blurred into one and when frontline workers bore the brunt of lockdown and the impacts of Covid.
Google trends data shows searches for ‘burnout symptoms’ have increased by 75 per cent in the last 12 months as people seek to understand their symptoms and evaluate what is being asked of them at work. It is perhaps not surprising then that many are now looking for an employer with a different approach.
Employers in the business of attracting and retaining the many people looking for better working conditions and greater fulfilment, would be wise to reexamine their employee mental health support offer, starting by ensuring staff can access mental health support when they need it. Early intervention is key so that problems have less chance of escalating.
Having timely support on tap can also address some of the many barriers to getting help, from stigma and culture to practical considerations like attending an appointment when life is busy.
Many wellbeing and HR teams are also looking closely at their culture, with many keen to create a ‘psychologically safe’ workplace. Asking yourself key questions can help determine how far you may have to go to create a workplace where people thrive and want to stay:
- Is employees’ mental health and wellbeing at the heart of our company’s values?
- Do people feel free to ask questions and talk about their ideas or concerns?
- Are people encouraged to learn from their mistakes?
- Do people engage in constructive conflict?
- Do we offer practical psychological support to employees?
Of course, developing new inclusive cultures is no quick win. But I believe there has never been a better time to prioritise staff mental wellbeing. Companies on the ‘right side’ of the great resignation will be those who take the time to understand and listen to staff and who offer the right kind of help at the right time.
Orienting your culture around wellbeing will give rise to staff feeling heard, valued and connected to their place of work – it follows then that they have fewer reasons to look elsewhere.
Of course there’s also a moral imperative at play here. A lot of people need support. I see how specific presenting issues, from depression and anxiety to suicide ideation and relationship issues have risen markedly over the last two years; these are bound to play out in the workplace in some form.
I believe our workforces can build a better ‘normal’ and instead of looking back on a ‘great resignation’ we will see instead a ‘great reflection’ – an opportunity to shift priorities in favour of the brilliant people who make our organisations flourish.
About the author
Dr Lynne Green is the Chief Clinical Officer at Kooth Work. Dr. Green has an extensive clinical background, including being a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with 20 years’ NHS experience