Businesses need to be held accountable for their employees’ mental health and not simply be passive advocates. This goes well beyond a “tick-box” mentality of providing Employee Assistance Programs and Health Spending Accounts. These are table stakes. We need to be thinking about business as a force for good, to borrow the tagline from the BCorp movement.
Companies have to do better. The concept of an interactive journal for the workplace to empower and enable employee health and wellness, specifically addressing burnout, anxiety, depression and inclusion is how we need to be creating resilience in our businesses.
If you claim to be inclusive, you need to be inclusive of all employee needs, not just the ones you’re comfortable with.
Our own, Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a report saying “more people are experiencing mental health woes even though the province has the highest life expectancy in the country… It’s concerning to me that the percentage of British Columbians who report positive mental health has gone down.” She made this statement in January of 2019– not August 2020!
Mental health is a “state of well-being” determined by one’s ability to recognize their potential, work effectively in a productive manner, and meaningfully contribute to their community. Just like we each have a state of physical health, we also each have our mental health… it’s about thriving. It’s about enjoying life, having a sense of purpose, and being able to manage life’s highs and lows. The employee experience has been impacted by COVID: 73% of employees are exhausted at work, citing, in order of impact:
1. No separation between work and life
2. Unmanageable workload
3. Job security concerns
4. Lack of support from manager
5. Lack of control over work
Imagine if you had a digital tool that could help improve employee mental health.
Interactive Digital Journaling for Wellness
Conceptually, think of an Interactive Digital Journal; embracing the benefits of connection and validation from social interactions and combining them with the effectiveness of inspiration and introspection that arises from journaling.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning to all wisdom”- Aristotle
Businesses Need to Change: The traditional model is broken
Many companies are relying on using anonymized surveys or pulse checks to check in on their people. Most are doing nothing. 40% of employees have not been checked in on since COVID . Surveys are problematic as they provide only a snapshot in time. We need to be able to see real time sentiment to address challenges based on each user to affect change. Blanket approaches shrouded in anonymity is not a commitment to real change to respect that each employee is dealing with challenges in different ways.
We need to design our businesses for resilience which requires employee input. So few companies are getting a solid understanding of what brings joy to their employees. A sense of purpose in the workplace has become even more salient through COVID.
We also need to be more mindful on how we invest our time. We all need a balanced food diet; similarly, when it comes to our work “context”, we also need to be deliberate in how we invest our time: through execution- doing; learning new things, and sharing our expertise.
Prior to COVID we had these grand expectations for managers to have inspiring conversations with their teams, but gave them no data to do so. We have haphazardly talked about occupational wellness, but did little to find out what brought people joy at work.
Enter COVID. The “office worker” now working from home full time; the “road warrior” that can’t get on a plane; the existing “remote worker” that no longer enjoys the freedom and flexibility they once had. Burnout, stress, anxiety, depression have increased around work, how we work, about infection, finances, children, caregivers. It’s no wonder “call-takers working at mental- health support phone lines throughout B.C. have seen calls spike, with volume in some regions as much as 140 per cent higher than normal.”
By using an Interactive Digital Journal, companies can prioritize employee mental well being, and use data for prevention, to predict business flows, and to ensure that employees feel secure and included. Employees must have a voice in their future. By including mental health into our business practices, we can ensure resilience in mental health as a standard business metric.
Manu Varma is the Principal Strategist for Bettr.me, a Traction on Demand Company. Traction on Demand has been a top 10 Great Place to Work in Canada for the last 7 years running.
Illustration by Francesco Ciccolella