As the calendar turns over to a new year and people engage in their annual re-commitment to self-care, it’s important not to overlook the impact of mental health upon overall well-being. Companies are increasingly understanding their role in the psychological health of their employees, and recognizing the benefits of a happy, healthy workforce. Different companies, however, face different challenges dependent upon a range of factors, not the least of which being company size. A tight-knit three-person team operating from a makeshift office will certainly encounter issues distinct from those facing a multinational corporation. So, who has the happiest, healthiest employees? Do small, medium or large companies best excel in this area?
Workplace Mental Health Study
The Globe and Mail has teamed with Morneau Shepell to study the impact of company size on employee mental health. This partnership has shared some results garnered from survey data from employees of companies that participated in the Employee Recommended Workplace Awards program. The results may, or may not, surprise you.
- Employees of small businesses (25-99 employees) experience better mental and overall health. They also report feeling more respected and have greater amounts of trust in workplace leadership.
- Those who work at large companies (500+ employees) have superior scores with regards to physical health and report doing well in their personal lives.
- Those who work at medium sized companies (100-499 employees), by contrast, are the least likely to recommend their workplace to others and they also suffer the highest rates of absenteeism.
Regardless of company size, flexibility of work hours resulted in higher trust scores and, of course, employees with healthier eating and exercise habits achieved better health, engagement and productivity ratings.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for these discrepancies, there are some obvious differences that come to mind. While large companies tend to have well-developed programs and protocols in place to deal with mental health issues, smaller companies may lack the resources to create this infrastructure. Conversely, small companies often feature closer relationships and more direct lines of communication which can result in employees feeling more recognized for their contributions, therefore leading to higher morale. During specific times of high work volumes, small companies are often forced to seek more from their employees, which can contribute to burnout. On the other hand, small companies are often free from impersonal top-down policy regulations, giving them additional leeway to recognize individual needs and address them with greater flexibility.
Strategies for Mental Health in the Workplace
Certain steps can be taken to address mental health no matter what the company size.
Recognizing the accomplishments of employees can go a long way towards improving morale and motivating hard work throughout all facets of the company. Different people respond better to recognition, reward, etc., so understanding what makes the workforce tick is a good first step.
Creating a safe workplace should be a no-brainer in this day and age. Employees expect a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment. A company culture that promotes these values will result in happier employees.
Work/life balance is something of a buzz-term, but a real effort to implement policies recognizing that work is just one aspect of a happy, healthy lifestyle will bear fruit for companies that are committed to mental health.
A key part of this is managing employees’ workloads. Of course company success depends upon the willingness of employees to work hard, but hiring the appropriate amount of staff, clearly defining roles and helping staff prioritize tasks during crunch time will alleviate stress.
Finally, companies should make it easier to seek help for mental health issues. Destigmatizing mental health matters and training management in proper response methods will help ensure that employees are comfortable addressing these challenges head on. Investing in an employee health insurance policy that properly covers treatment is another important tool.
Enjoying the Benefits of a Happy, Healthy Workforce
Not only is investing in workforce mental health the right thing for a company to do from a moral perspective, it also makes good business sense. Stress has a negative impact on employee productivity and can lead to high absenteeism, potentially costing businesses dearly. Employees who feel recognized, valued and clear on expectations will be better prepared, and more willing, to go the extra mile for their employer, increasing company-wide productivity. Work comprises such a large portion of our waking hours that the line separating productivity and fulfillment from stress and despair is a thin one, Here’s wishing everybody a happy, healthy and productive 2019.