3 tips for setting workplace wellbeing goals

Improving mental health is top of mind for your employees—here’s how your organization can help

By Jennifer Gendron – Global Chief Commercial Officer at Koa Health –  Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing Solutions

Every January, the changing of the calendar year offers an excellent opportunity to reflect and set priorities for the year ahead. By February, most people—about 80%—have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. The good news? Nothing is stopping you (or your organization) from setting goals for the remainder of the year.

Financial and business objectives are always top of mind, but it’s vital to consider how your workforce’s mental wellbeing influences your organization’s success. Considering that people spend nearly one-third of their lives—an average of 90,000 hours—at work and mental health struggles are hitting the global workforce harder than ever, employers are uniquely positioned to positively impact employees’ quality of life.

Let’s look at the facts: More than half (57%) of employees report that work negatively affects their mental health and are unaware of any existing, easily accessible mental health support services their organization provides.[1] Moreover, 45% of adults said their top 2023 New Year’s resolution was improving their mental health.[2] It’s clear that there’s a disconnect between the mental health and wellbeing support employers currently provide and the kind of support employees seek.

In a December 2022 survey of 500 business leaders across the U.S. and the U.K. conducted by Koa Health, employee quality of life was the number one reason employers cited for investing in workplace mental health. It outranked business performance metrics such as productivity, talent attraction and worker retention.[3]

And while 75% of survey participants expect the mental health of their employees to improve in the coming year, 58% do not plan to increase spending in this area. But this doesn’t mean that organizations can’t do more to support employee mental wellbeing within their current budgets—it’ll just require some creativity and a well-thought-out strategy. In fact, many survey participants plan to implement positive change by improving communications and transparency around mental health at work.[4]

For organizations that are serious about creating a workplace environment that supports balanced mental wellbeing, it’s essential to set concrete, measurable goals. Simply vowing to increase transparency and openness around mental health at work isn’t enough. To achieve end goals (of improving employee mental health or anything else) there must be a process-driven strategy broken down into practical actions.

So, how can your organization set effective, attainable goals to help support the wellbeing of your people and your business? Follow these tips:

1. Set a clear “why”

Understanding the driving force behind your goal of improving employee mental health and wellbeing is essential. If you know why the goal matters to your organization, you’ll be less likely to abandon it—especially if you’re making less progress than expected, get stuck or experience any setbacks.

2. Be flexible

No matter how well laid out the plan may be, you’re bound to run into hiccups. Allow yourself some flexibility with your approach, and have a backup plan (or two) lined up. This can help your organization stay on track with your goals despite any interruptions or roadblocks. However, if you’re feeling discouraged at any point or run out of backup strategies, you may want to revisit your why.

3. Focus on small and measurable action steps

The key to sticking to and making progress towards your long-term goals is to set clear, actionable mini-goals along the way. Imagine what success might look like for your organization and outline gradual checkpoints and measurable progress indicators. For example, your vision of being transparent and open about mental health at your workplace might mean your employees and leadership teams freely discuss mental wellness habits like self-care tips or meditation. Or it may include leadership sharing their stress and mental health struggles with employees and what tools and techniques they’re using to improve their wellbeing. Whatever the end goal, mapping out the small changes needed for your organization to get there can help you get there.

Once you’ve settled on your end goal and plotted out how you’ll get there, you’re ready to start making progress. Rolling out changes gradually is the best way to avoid overwhelming yourself and your workforce, increasing your ability to gain momentum and achieve your goals by the end of the year. Remember, change can be intimidating. Regularly gather feedback from employees and leverage any findings to help you make continuous improvements as you go. Your workforce will notice and appreciate that their input is valuable in shaping your organization’s goals.

Talking openly about or implementing new initiatives surrounding mental health at work can feel difficult in the moment, but they’re vital to creating a wellbeing-focused company culture. Be patient and flexible, and don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate the progress your organization is making along the way. The first few steps can seem small in theory, but they have the potential to make a significant impact on the wellbeing of both your organization and your people.

Find out what developments industry leaders foresee for mental health in our 2023 Mental Wellbeing Predictions from the Experts ebook.

[1] Witters & Agrawal for Gallup – The Economic Cost of Poor Employee Mental Health

[2] Witters & Agrawal for Gallup – The Economic Cost of Poor Employee Mental Health

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[3] Mental Wellbeing Trends 2023: Executive Summary

[4] Mental Wellbeing Trends 2023: Executive Summary