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Employee Wellbeing

The Importance of Prioritizing Employee Well-Being and Psychological Safety

mental health-employee wellbeing-company culture-employee wellness
mental health-employee wellbeing-company culture-employee wellness

Three business leaders discuss the importance of fostering a healthy company culture and creating a safe space for employees to feel supported in their mental health.


Arianna Huffington

Co-Founder, The Huffington Post

Why is company culture so important for employee well-being?

It’s important because we now know an enormous amount about how stress and burnout affect us, both at home and at work. The science is clear that when we prioritize our well-being, we’re more creative, productive, and resilient, and we make better decisions. Well-being isn’t just a perk, it’s a competitive advantage. And there’s a direct connection between the health of a company’s bottom line and the health and well-being of every company’s most important resource — its people. So, in the same way well-being boosts our immune system, culture serves as a company’s immune system, giving it the resilience to meet inevitable challenges.

What was the turning point that made you realize your workplace burnout was beyond the point of comfort?

My turning point came in 2007, when I collapsed from exhaustion and broke my cheekbone. I had bought into the idea that burnout was just the price we have to pay for success. However, I came to realize that that’s just a collective myth. I learned everything I could about the connection between well-being and productivity, and I made a lot of changes to my life based on what I found out. I started getting more sleep, I started meditating again, and I became much more deliberate about building in time to recharge.


Jack Altman

Co-Founder and CEO, Lattice

Are there any initiatives or upcoming trends in the HR space that you personally support?

The importance of how companies engage employees has rapidly changed from a slow evolution to a rapid evolution over the last two years. This has led to the birth of a lot of different processes that require new tools, new thinking, and new best practices. You can see that in the way that performance reviews have evolved to continuous feedback, how people think about career advancement and compensation, and the way companies are investing deeply in development and culture. That backdrop has led to companies needing to retrofit their processes for a much more employee-centric world. And that has created an opportunity for us to show up for our teams.

In what ways can employers/organizations encourage a culture of health and wellness?

If you want to build a thriving organization, one of the best ways to support the health of your employees and the growth of your company — especially as the pandemic continues — is by rolling out a wellness program. Research shows that wellness programs lower healthcare costs and boost productivity — benefiting both your people and the bottom line. It’s important to consider all the aspects of employee health, including physical, mental, and emotional wellness. All of these work together to keep morale high, engagement scores up, and burnout in check. Before laying out your plans, listen. Ask employees what they want out of your wellness program. Your program needs to fit the life and working styles of your people.

Why is company culture so important for employee wellbeing?

Turning culture into a competitive advantage is a pretty complicated topic. The short version is that it rests on three pillars: Community, purpose, and growth. Community creates a feeling of belonging to a collective greater than your individual self, that you’re building something together. Purpose gives work meaning, and helps employees feel like their work goes beyond the day-to-day. But while most people have probably thought about the first two, the third pillar is more unusual. Growth makes people feel valued and that they have unlimited potential. That feeling is critical to boosting retention while also boosting your employees’ sense of wellbeing.

What is the main challenge HR professionals and managers are facing today when it comes to overseeing a hybrid workforce?

One of the major concerns a lot of HR teams and leaders are dealing with right now is how to adapt and maintain company culture through evolving remote and hybrid working models. As many companies have discovered over the last two years, the landscape is constantly shifting, so companies have to build adaptability into their model and commit to that in order to move forward. But while hybrid and remote work is hard, it doesn’t have to be a culture killer as long as companies listen to their people and adapt practices to the new world of work.

What are some key strategies companies can employ to prevent employee burnout and retain top talent?

The way to attract and retain employees is to give your people agency, trust, and autonomy. Companies are shifting from historical standard practices of people management. I’m a bigger believer that companies should have a well-defined, clear, and purposeful mission and have a great system of values that employees can gravitate toward and rally around. That foundation allows your people to trust that, if grounded in our values, their decision-making is sound.

Are there any specific tools or services that organizations are using to overcome some of the impediments they might face in the shift to the Employee Experience?

Engagement surveys are a powerful tool for ensuring employees stay plugged into your culture and stay satisfied with their day-to-day experience. If you’re not asking employees to share through these channels, you’re closing yourself off to valuable feedback that will help you face those challenges.

Where should leaders start when it comes to implementing employee engagement and

wellbeing practices into their team’s routine?

If you’re looking for ways to get employees excited about wellness and engagement activities, offer incentives. We’re all driven by different factors, so try offering up a variety of options that cater to employees’ needs or interests. Most importantly, if you’re still not moving the needle on participation, don’t be afraid to change things up. Listen to feedback, both anecdotally and through employee surveys conducted by your HR team.


Russell Glass

CEO, Headspace Health

In what ways can employers encourage a culture of health and wellness?
Benefits alone cannot drive cultural transformation. It requires demonstrated leadership at all levels of the organization. The pandemic has dramatically impacted the mental health of our workforce, and organizations are under immense pressure to nurture and invest in their employees’ well-being.
For employers, that begins by recognizing that mental health and wellness — which was once solely the responsibility of HR — is now the responsibility of every company leader and needs to be intrinsically woven into the fabric of the organization. That includes instituting a culture that encourages openness, inclusivity, and normalizing the notion that keeping up with your mental health is just as important as maintaining great physical health. It starts from the top down, and we as leaders must set an example by setting boundaries and taking time off to reinforce the importance of work-life balance — both for the betterment of the employee and the organization.
What are some key strategies companies can employ to prevent employee burnout and retain top talent?

Employee burnout is a business continuity issue that should be at the top of every CEO’s agenda. New research from Headspace Health finds that 1 in 4 workers feel that their jobs harm their mental health. As evidenced by the Great Resignation, today’s employees require that their employers not only support but prioritize their mental well-being. The business implications are significant: lost productivity, burnout, talent shortages, and an adverse impact on the bottom line.
Supporting employees with on-demand access to preventive care tools, including virtual behavioral health coaching, mindfulness, and meditation can give them the mental fortitude to manage day-to-day stress, anxiety, and depression. Coaching is one of the most effective ways employees can build resilience. Our research finds that when individuals have on-demand access to a coach, they’re able to set goals, create meaningful change, and improve performance. Behavioral health coaching from Ginger, a subsidiary of Headspace Health, has been shown to produce a 70% reduction in depression and a 59% reduction in anxiety within 12 weeks. By leading with prevention, stress and anxiety can be managed earlier in the health journey before evolving into acute illness.
Another approach to consider is to operate from the inside, out. Operating from the inside, out means checking in with your employees to give them the support and time they need to be physically and psychologically safe. It means collaborating across teams to develop an authentic response to the deeply human issues that impact both your employees and customers. It means taking a hard look at processes, systems, and relationships to ensure they align with the company vision, mission, and values. For us at Headspace Health, this ultimately means focusing on our own mental health, so that we can support the mental health of others.
What is one piece of advice you have for company leaders who feel a disconnect with their employees?
As a leader, the events of the past two and half years can feel overwhelming. However, it’s important to be intentional about creating a workplace that values employee well-being. That includes destigmatizing mental health and practicing mindful communication through active listening and empathetic leadership.

Comprehensive leadership training can be particularly effective for helping leaders and managers feel comfortable and competent talking openly about mental health issues. It can also help leaders identify the early signs of burnout or depression and empower them with the skills to uplift and inspire their teams. If a manager senses that an employee is struggling, they might not feel comfortable having that conversation, simply because they lack the skillset and knowledge for addressing seemingly sensitive or taboo subjects. At Headspace Health, for example, we’re bridging this gap by empowering leaders at all levels with strategies for instilling psychological safety best practices and building resilience.  
As leaders, being role models is one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to talking openly about mental health. Since employees often model the behaviors of company leadership, changing the conversation becomes critically important. Leaders shouldn’t shy away from saying, “I am struggling with my mental health,” or “I have struggled in the past, and here’s how I worked through that.” That vulnerability allows employees to feel safe talking about their own mental health needs and creates a sense of connection and belonging that has a ripple effect across the organization.


Oliver Harrison, M.D., M.P.H.

CEO, Koa Health

Are there any initiatives or upcoming trends in the HR space that you personally support?

Mental health benefits are imperative for employees right now. People showing signs of anxiety and depression have more than tripled across the pandemic and, according to Mental Health America, 83% of people say the workplace negatively impacts their mental state. Employers have a legal and moral imperative to support their employees. It just makes good business sense to give all of your unique employee populations easy access to support and tools that empower them to feel and perform their best at work and beyond.

What are some key ways that businesses have been able to boost employee engagement, and where has this made a real impact?

There is considerable evidence that absenteeism, presenteeism, productivity, retention, and all-around employee engagement all closely correlate with a person’s mental well-being and ability to thrive through change, uncertainty, and tough times. Deloitte has concluded that for every $1 invested in an employee’s mental health, you’ll get $4 in return. There is a great deal of innovation happening in mental health benefit solutions right now — particularly in highly accessible, scalable, science-backed digital apps. In a trial Koa Health did with the London School of Economics, we concluded that the use of an evidence-based digital mental health app can generate between a 4-5x return on investment.

What are some key strategies companies can employ to prevent employee burnout and retain top talent?

People will often loosely refer to burnout as feeling overworked, exhausted, or depleted. However, the World Health Organization defines burnout as an organizational phenomenon. So, while employers ought to provide easily accessible, science-backed, evidence-based mental health benefits to help their workforce combat burnout-related symptoms and build resilience, business leaders also must build a workplace culture where mental health can openly be addressed and talked about. Without that level of authenticity and intentionality, employees will not access the support and solutions offered to them.

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