#MercerChats Rewind: Make Mental Health Your #1 Priority

#MercerChats Rewind: Redesigning the Work Experience in the Future of Work

Each month, Mercer brings together in-house experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals around the world engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our November 2020 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.

In the last 15 years, mental health has gone from taboo to an everyday concern, and the change couldn’t have come any sooner. That’s because just as employers around the world were finally coming to terms with the fact that their workforce’s mental and emotional wellbeing may have an impact on their organization’s wellbeing, we’ve been thrust into a global pandemic that’s made uncertainty, anxiety and stress a household concern around the world.

But mental health awareness began long before the pandemic, and it will continue to be a prominent concern long after it’s gone. As we learn more about what drives and motivates people – and as the world of work evolves to become more human focused – it’s becoming more and more critical that employers invest in their people’s mental health and wellbeing. This means going beyond reducing or alleviating stress and taking a more humanistic look at workforce engagement and productivity, support, and fulfillment, all of which are top priorities for business leaders around the world.

So if employers are to take up the mantle of mental health in the workplace, where should they begin? How can organizations go about creating an environment that balances their people’s holistic wellbeing with their business objectives? That’s the question we were after in the wake of World Mental Health Awareness Day 2020, so we invited some of the world’s leading voices to discuss the latest trend in workplace wellness and mental health in a #MercerChats tweet chat. Below are some of the key takeaways and greatest insights from that conversation.

Creating a Culture of Kindness

When you think about how important your workforce’s mental wellbeing really is, it’s almost unbelievable that it wasn’t a higher priority until now. If your people are your most valuable and important asset, then overlooking their mental health is like a homeowner looking the other way when they notice a crack in their foundation. But it’s even more remarkable when you consider all the different ways that employee wellbeing does matter. Whether it’s your productivity or your employment brand or your bottom-line, having a workforce that is positive, supported and engaged can impact every part of your business.

To begin understanding the value of mental health, it helps to start with the basics. Lori Almedia hit on this during our discussion when she noted the simple impact of demonstrating kindness and support in the workplace, which can lead to people exceeding targets by up to 17%. Similarly, Jen Merrick shared how these environments can improve workforce productivity by 10.6 more days per person annually. This is achieved through a culture of care and authentic connection, as Chris Edmonds noted, all of which has become an essential part of building strong leadership and a resilient business amid today’s social and economic volatility, per Tamara McCleary

Leading by Example via Exemplary Leadership

Knowing the problem is only half the battle. In order to realize the benefits of a positive, healthy workforce, employers need to know how to build one. The answer can either be shockingly simple or monstrously complex, but let’s start with the former and work our way up.

People want to be treated like people, and it really is as simple as that. Both Cecilia Giordano and Carrie Maslen shared something to this effect during our conversation, pointing out that leaders must be mindful of their own behaviors and what they may be signaling to their people. But it’s also about listening, as Dr. Marcia F Robinson shared. Leaders need to remain plugged into their people and identifying areas where they may be struggling. Whether your people are at risk of burnout due to being overburdened at work or disengaging from work due to problems away from the office, listening is the first step towards resolution.

And now to the hard part: constructing the policies and benefits that allow for peace of mind. Per Amy Laverock, the key here is personalization, and if you’re thinking that it’s just another business buzz word, think again. Personalization is the ability to provide the right benefits to the right people to ensure they have adequate support, all of which is made easier by digital benefits and health. Both Norman Dreger and Alvin Foo identified how important this is when they pointed out that new solutions like telemedicine, wellness benefits, and counseling have become absolute game changers in the push for better mental health, and it might be time more employers took notice.

Shifting to Humanistic Organizations

Are employers in an arms race to see who can adopt the most supportive and empathetic mental health policies? Maybe not, but you could argue that they should be. Both leaders and talent are catching on to the importance of mental health, and it may increasingly become a reputational liability for brands to continue overlooking their own people’s wellbeing. As Christina Dove shared, people have been giving much of themselves to their employers for years, and it’s time those employers start giving back.

The good news is that there’s so much that employers can do to begin closing the gap and showing their people that they care. The key is to do just that, whether through a culture that prioritizes more empathetic and humanistic relationships, as Eugenia Naser suggests, or by creating a more flexible, supportive workplace, similar to the one Nicole Passmore mentions. In either case, there’s no better time than now to enact these policies, as the remote working landscape and feeling of isolation that both Brian Fanzo and Theo Lau touched on will continue to present challenges to those leaders who want to build a culture of wellness. But in the end it will be those leaders, people managers and colleagues who need to step up to the challenge, because as Mark Babbitt noted, you can’t automate caring. 

Danielle Guzman
by Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media