Call it an after-effect of the pandemic or a response to attracting more people back to in-person work, but more companies are putting time, money, and resources into supporting their employees’ well-being.
Of the 700 US executives polled for a PwC report in August 2022 from a range of industries, 62% said that they are expanding mental-health benefits for staff. Aside from supporting their staff, this investment also serves companies, boosting productivity and even stock values.
For millennials and Gen X in particular, access to mental health is a priority. They’re voicing concerns about stress and maintaining a work-life balance, and want their employers’ support.
“There needs to be a reason for you to go to the workplace,” says Grant Christofely, associate director of Workplace Strategy at M Moser, which designs and builds offices across the world. “It should make you healthier. It should make you feel part of a community. It should also support the work that you and your team do.”
Well-being is the state of general health and happiness: a focus for many since the pandemic. This might sound like an abstract goal to strive for, but enhancing well-being can be made part of a daily practice. The UK’s National Health Service is one of many health organizations that share evidence-based recommendations for doing so on its website: forming connections with other people, physical activity, learning new skills, giving to others, and cultivating mindfulness.
Meditation classes enhance focus and empathy, decrease stress
Meditation is a powerful tool for increasing mindfulness. P&G has been offering free online meditation classes for its employees, among other well-being resources, since January 2021. Within the first two weeks of launching the meditation class, 700 employees signed up. In the end, 5,000 attendees completed the sessions from over 30 countries, including India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Canada.
Those who took more than four classes stated they felt their empathy, resilience, mindfulness, and stress management improved. Annie Weisbrod, P&G’s principal scientist for Global Sustainability & Well-being, launched and now teaches the course, and has submitted her findings to a peer-reviewed journal this fall.
“People say it changes how they view themselves, their work, their whole life,” says Weisbrod, a Zen practitioner, advanced yogi, and reiki healer. “They feel they are less stressed; they have the same amount of work but it’s more handleable. Their emotional intelligence improves. Their ability to focus improves, so they’re less distracted and less likely to make errors. Having more empathy means there’s better teamwork and more collaboration.”
Workplaces should be life-enhancing spaces
Meditation, yoga, fitness centers, and a good cafeteria serving healthy food are all resources companies can invest in these to improve employee well-being. Companies can also re-design office spaces to support a better and healthier mindset.
A recent project MMoser’s Christofely worked on with a tech company prioritized employee experience from a design, work strategy, and wellness perspective. They built more spaces for collaboration, reduced the number of individual workstations, and added “library spaces” on each floor for focused work.
“We tackled it from every angle that we could,” he says. “We ended up with something that looks more like the amenities level of a hotel or a high-end condo complex. This organization’s attitude is that sometimes at work, you want to take a spin class or hang out or have a coffee and write some emails. Work doesn’t have to look like work.”
Resources can be simple, from pet days to apps
Not every company has the budget for a complete remodel of their environment or an in-house gym. But there are simpler ways of boosting mental health and camaraderie. With the number of pets adopted since the pandemic, many companies have adopted policies that allow staff to bring their dogs to work. Some are even granting staff time off to grieve when a pet passes.
Tech companies from Google to Uber have pet policies that allow pets in the office. In some workplaces, employees have to rotate the days they can bring their pets to the office or ask owners to sign liability disclaimers.
These options are not particularly difficult or costly to launch. Other simple solutions include offering subscriptions to digital benefits, such as Calm Health, a business service from Wellness app Calm. Other employers supply staff with wearables that encourage healthier ways of living, tracking not only steps but sleep.
Consultancy firm Accenture designed a Mental Health Allies network, with resources for staff and people who can listen to concerns during the work day. Any employee can sign up for a half-day of training to become an ally, which covers mental-health triggers and symptoms, how to have supportive conversations, and locate available tools and resources.
As of 2022, there were more than 8,900 employees in this network, which works in tandem with other free tools and training programs for staff. Thriving Mind is just one, a series of videos created with tech company Thrive Global and also with Stanford Medicine.
A focus on well-being not only helps staff feel safe and connected — but helps to drive the company’s work too.
“This is good for individuals; it is good for the work that we do, and it helps drive employee engagement, which ultimately benefits our commercial success,” says Jill Hughes, managing director of Accenture Song, the consultancy’s interactive tech arm. “An engaged workforce has been shown to be a more productive workforce.”