Building mental resilience for the future of work

HR leaders must invest in mental health resources and continue to have open and honest conversations with employees around mental wellbeing.

In March 2020, we witnessed a massive transition that would transform the future of work. Workplaces immediately shifted to remote work — in some cases, over the course of a weekend —to protect the health and safety of their workers. Now, as we approach the next phase of this evolution, organizations and employees are faced with another ripe opportunity to redefine work for the better.

As a chief people officer, I’ve managed diverse teams globally and believe building mentally resilient workplaces starts with creating an employee-first framework.

A culture of mental resilience — the ability to manage and adapt to situations of adversity — is vital for companies to attract, retain and nurture talent as the future of work continues to evolve. It requires leaders to make mental health a top priority. To achieve this, companies should invest in mental health resources, create a culture of care through new habits and leadership behaviors and continue to have open and honest conversations around mental wellbeing.

Evaluate your wellness benefits

Many managers are eager to invest in mental health resources, but don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, there are simple yet effective ways HR leaders can introduce wellness initiatives to their workforce.

Today’s workforce, especially younger employees, want to work for companies that are aware of their wellbeing needs and can help them feel supported at work. A recent survey showed 62 percent of employers added new mental health benefits during the pandemic and expect to continue offering these resources — proving that investing in mental health is not only the right thing to do, but has also never been more accessible than it is today.

Mental wellness platforms designed for the workplace enable leaders to build a more resilient organization by providing access to resources that can be used during and outside work hours. Before implementing new tools, check-in with employees to evaluate their needs and ensure any benefits you introduce are intentional. By making wellness platforms a part of regular health benefits, employers remind their community that mental health is health — and deserves to be treated as such.

Encourage healthy habits

It can be challenging to build a culture of mental resilience in fast-paced workplaces where teams mostly work from home. In today’s virtual work environment, it’s important to encourage healthy habits for both employees and leaders at work to prevent burnout, promote mindfulness and acknowledge the impact the past year has had on our wellbeing.

Managers and HR leaders can implement new norms to keep wellness top of mind and provide solutions to the challenges that come with this new way of working, such as monthly group meditation sessions, company-wide lunches and even an initiative as simple as Zoom-free Fridays. In fact, research shows off-camera discussions make us more productive and better at reading emotions.

Rest should happen outside of work hours, too, and digital health tools that improve sleep have been shown to increase overall productivity and work satisfaction. By making sure employees are getting the rest they need both during work and outside of it, employers can help their community feel energized and supported throughout the workday.

Moreover, managers can take the lead in creating a culture that values self-care by modeling mindfulness and healthy behavior themselves. For example, not only encouraging employees to take PTO but also taking time off yourself sends the message that you practice the mindful habits you promote.

Research consistently shows the positive impact that mindfulness training for leaders has on their employees’ experience. One study found that employees managed by leaders practicing mindfulness consistently experience higher ratings of their well-being and reported a better work-life balance, lower employee emotional exhaustion and an overall increase in employee performance.

Foster open conversations around mental health

Today, the culture around mental health is changing for the better. Throughout the past year, the world has seen more open discussions taking place around mental wellness, including in the workplace. Moving forward, it will be important to keep up this momentum — and this can only happen if HR leaders foster an environment of openness around mental health, where employees feel comfortable talking about mental health without judgment.

Managers who are at the frontlines of workplace culture have a role to play in encouraging conversations around mental health. This can take the form of checking in on the people you work with, asking them how they’re really doing and understanding how they’re taking advantage of their wellness benefits and caring for their mental wellbeing.

Looking forward

Ultimately, it’s important to remember there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing mental health. But by introducing the right resources, incorporating employee feedback and encouraging discussions around mental wellbeing, managers can set the stage for mindful leadership in the future workplace.

Mental resilience is like a muscle. Let’s continue to strengthen it as we exercise ways to put mindfulness into practice and shape the future of work for the better.