Most Chief People Officers, Human Resource Directors and CEOs I talk to have some type of mental health and wellbeing strategy in place. However, when I ask them why they chose a ‘wellbeing week’ or a specific technology solution for their employees they don’t really know.
“Coca-Cola does it” or “it seemed like something our teams would like” is more a question of luck than a realistic attempt to diagnose and resolve people’s wellbeing issues. But without any meaningful insight into what your people’s individual needs are, how can you feel confident that you have the right answer?
Unfortunately, it’s often the most popular wellbeing strategies that act like a sticky plaster. If your employees feel stressed, anxious or depressed because they don’t have access to the resources they need or they aren’t getting enough face-to-face time with their manager, a free yoga session isn’t going to fix that.
Similarly, many wellbeing programmes are reactionary and often only utilised when an issue has reached its peak. For example, if the only available mental health support is a Mental Health First Aider, by the time an employee reaches out their stress or burnout levels have likely been through the roof for some time.
These two approaches have one thing in common: they only deal with the symptoms of poor wellbeing – not the cause. But in a hectic world where HR is constantly firefighting and managers are busier than ever, who should be responsible for diagnosing, owning and resolving wellbeing problems?
The individual employee experience
I believe the answer is to go directly to the source and empower your individual employees to self-diagnose where their mental health and wellbeing issues lie. Asking specific questions to identify where individuals are struggling and suggesting straightforward, simple solutions enables your people to find a way forward without relying on HR or their manager.
It’s a powerful feeling when we achieve something ourselves, especially when taking ownership of our employee experience. Because even if we are all the same, we are actually all very different. What I mean by this is that even if every employee has the same innate human needs, we tend to experience them differently, we often seek to get them met differently and they can have a different meaning to each of us.
This is especially important to understand when we are helping or managing people. One size doesn’t fit all, and one style doesn’t suit everyone, when it comes to supporting, managing, and developing people. Our mental health is incredibly personal, and giving employees the ability to own and manage their experience is far more effective than a blanket ‘wellbeing week’ solution.
Tools for identifying and fixing poor mental health and wellbeing at work
Unfortunately for many of us, in life and at work, pinpointing the specific cause of poor wellbeing isn’t always easy. In fact, in many cases there can be multiple subconscious problems affecting our mental health.
To achieve sustainable mental wellbeing, we need to begin by understanding what our human needs are before we can seek ways to get them better met.
We share our three most primitive human needs – security, control, and respect – with other animals. Any threat to those primitive needs can easily activate our fight or flight response and the “danger” is often felt immediately and strongly in our brain and body. Other psychological needs include having a reason to get up each morning and feeling that our life has a meaning and purpose, privacy, a sense of achievement and importantly, togetherness.
If individuals don’t have these human needs met sufficiently, then we will start to see the symptoms of poor wellbeing at work. For example, a siloed mentality, more mistakes and errors, only being able to see problems and not solutions, arguments amongst colleagues, an uptake in sick leave, reduced productivity and high levels of turnover.
So how can individuals get ahead of these symptoms and self-diagnose, resolve and manage the causes?
The simple solution is a survey that can identify where individuals’ human needs are unmet. WeThrive’s mental health and wellbeing survey is a practical, meaningful, and empowering toolkit supported by expertise from general practice, practical psychology, and psychotherapy.
It isn’t a sticky plaster or a reactionary wellbeing measure. It’s a preventative tool that identifies the root causes and implements long-lasting solutions by digging deeper into the areas where your people aren’t getting their conscious and subconscious human needs met. The tool provides instant, practical recommendations for employees to immediately improve wellbeing and mental health.
The best part? Employees don’t have to wait months for the next round of “surveys from the top” that often fail to produce meaningful, direct change. Instead, each employee has their own personal Bubble where they can answer a 5 minute survey about how they feel, whenever they want, and get a personal set of results and achievable action recommendations instantly.
Of course, some larger cultural issues will require additional support from managers or even HR. These deeper, cultural issues are also identified, and managers have full access to the anonymous results from their team. Each manager receives their own set of relevant action recommendations and resources to identify and resolve patterns of poor wellbeing in their team.
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About the author
Andrew Heath is CEO & Co-founder of WeThrive. After being hospitalised with Swine Flu in 2010 he felt lucky to be alive – but the trauma of the experience had a profound effect on him. He met Piers Bishop, a psychotherapist and consultant who helped businesses and line managers identify and manage stress to improve the employee experience. Not long after, WeThrive was born. Combining his background in software and Piers’ knowledge of workplace psychology, they sought to create a disruptive employee experience platform that pushed beyond the norm, and challenges themselves, their clients and their organisations to put people first.