Samantha Dickinson: How to build and support a healthy workforce

Samantha DickinsonStress is an inevitable part of life. In the workplace it can build resilience, pushing individuals to adapt and perform under pressure, which leads to personal growth. However, when stress becomes overwhelming it leads to decreased productivity, burnout and debilitating health problems. Recognising and managing employee stress levels is crucial for maintaining good staff wellbeing and productivity.

Promoting wellbeing fosters a positive work environment conducive to creativity and innovation. When employees feel supported and valued, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated, which leads to greater job satisfaction and improved performance.

Proactively addressing mental health concerns can mitigate risks of absenteeism and high turnover too. Untreated medical health issues result in decreased productivity and higher rates of burnout, which have financial implications. By investing in mental health support, employers can cultivate a loyal and committed workforce and reduce costs.

Attending to younger employees’ mental health is especially crucial. Many millennials and Gen Z individuals are facing new challenges, from huge financial pressures and student debt to social media scrutiny and uncertainty about their future. To effectively support employee mental health, businesses can implement a range of strategies.

These include providing a safe space for employees to speak openly about their struggles and access to confidential support services to create an environment where they can seek help, fostering a sense of community by facilitating peer support networks or employee resource groups focused on mental health, training mental health first aiders and encouraging informal check-ins at all levels of the organisation by creating space to connect and share experiences.

Employers could also provide flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, to help employees better manage their work-life balance, which in turn, reduces stress, promote unplugging from work out of hours and set realistic expectations around workload to prevent excessive stress and burnout. Encouraging regular breaks and physical activity, such as a lunchtime walking club, can also contribute to a healthy workforce.

Other points to consider are offering training sessions on stress management, encouraging employees to support themselves with activities such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques, and training managers and supervisors to recognise signs of distress and how to support those experiencing mental health challenges. Leaders should be equipped with skills to have compassionate, non-judgmental conversations and to know when and how to refer employees to appropriate professional resources.

Implementing employee assistance programmes and offering mental health benefits such as professional counselling services, mental health days and mindfulness programmes can help staff manage life challenges.

By creating a supportive work environment, offering comprehensive health benefits and implementing strategies to promote wellbeing, employers can foster resilience, productivity and increase employee retention, thereby contributing to the long-term success and sustainability of their organisations.

Samantha Dickinson is an equality and diversity partner at Mayo Wynne Baxter