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Healthy Minds, Healthy Business

22 July 2021

To say that the impact of the pandemic on mental health on individuals and employers is huge, is not remotely an overstatement. Despite the growing awareness of the world’s mental health status across the globe, many companies do not make it a high enough priority and relegate the responsibility to their HR department.[1]

At Change2020 we believe that supporting your workforce’s mental health needs to take more of a front seat in your operating model and your organisational culture. Plus as we all continue to face an uncertain future in regards to COVID, investing in your people is a tangible action you can take to help secure your organisation’s long-term sustainability. This is the first in a series of articles we will bring to you of the importance of tackling mental health challenges for successful and sustainable organisational change.

4.25x ROI for every dollar spent

By integrating workplace mental health best practices, you are likely to see return on investment (ROI) for such actions. McKinsey research states that by doing this, you can significantly boost employee mental health and job satisfaction and generate a return of 4.25x ROI for every dollar spent.[2]

Failure to Address Your People’s Mental Health Costs

If that wasn’t a strong enough reason, failure to address the cost of poor mental health of your workforce, places your business at significant risk. The Australian Productivity Commission estimates that mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces AU $17 billion (US $13.6 billion) every year through absenteeism and lost productivity.[3] These figures have risen significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic, with psychological effects forecast to outstrip physical effects in Australia.[4]

Your Culture is Critical

Investing in your culture is paramount to support the mental health of your employees.

A culture which promotes psychological safety where it is ‘safe’ to voice an opinion, make a mistake or challenge an idea creates a sense of value; it says to people ‘you are important, you are valuable’.

Furthermore, leaders who overtly and comfortably demonstrate their own vulnerabilities and are able to express how they feel adds to the sense of belonging and inclusion. Human’s are designed to ‘belong’; creating and nurturing a culture based on care, kindness, clarity and inclusion has a direct positive impact on the wellbeing of employees.

You Can Take Action Now

But fear not, you can take steps in the right direction, right now. A very simple action for leaders is for them to encourage informal social groupings (both virtual and face-to-face) that bring together people from across roles and levels, – this all helps to build a greater sense of connection throughout the whole business. Another very simple action that leaders can take is to reach out to their people just to say ‘hi, how are you’ as opposed to a pure work-based discussion – this small act has a big impact, as outlined below.

Four Little Words Can Make a Big Difference

In a recent McKinsey study more than 40% of staff surveyed, described a very real decline in their mental health during the COVID-19 crisis. Perhaps what was more shocking, was the nearly 40 percent of respondents said no one had taken the time to quickly check in and ask, “How are you doing?” No supervisor, no team leader, no one.[5] In previous articles we have reaffirmed the importance of communication in employee engagement and staff retention. The simple act of checking in on people is so important. Those four little words of asking someone how they are faring, makes a big difference.

More To Come

While the mental health fallout issues of COVID-19 are well known, many workplaces still need to prioritise the mental health of their people and to start taking consistent action. We urge leaders to act in support of workplace mental health best practice right now.

In the remainder of our series, we unpack what some organisations have done during the pandemic, how you can design your workplace to minimise mental health issues, plus how to build supportive community groups – all actions to help ensure sustainable change and longevity for your business. We hope you join us for this series.

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/asia-pacific/out-of-the-shadows-sustainably-improving-workplace-mental-health

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/asia-pacific/out-of-the-shadows-sustainably-improving-workplace-mental-health.

[3] Productivity Commission inquiry report: Mental health volume 2, Australian Government Productivity Commission, June 2020, pc.gov.au.

[4] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/asia-pacific/out-of-the-shadows-sustainably-improving-workplace-mental-health

[5] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/asia-pacific/out-of-the-shadows-sustainably-improving-workplace-mental-health

Kerryn Fewster

Kerryn is the Founder and Director of Change 2020. She has consulted extensively in the area of Transition and Transformation. She places emphasis on strategy development and solution implementation to minimise people and operational impacts associated with major change.

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