The World Health Organization's theme for Mental Health Day 2022 is to prioritize global mental health, reflecting the increased recognition of its prevalence and the shift toward openness on this long-taboo topic. However, for mental health to truly become a global priority, it must be established as a collective responsibility, particularly in the context of the workplace. Mental health support has transformed from a marginal concern to a corporate imperative due to the pandemic's profound impacts, including employee burnout, mass resignations, and a heightened focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. ""A 2022 employee benefits survey by Metlife, coins its findings as the rise of the ‘whole employee.’ What this means is that a productive workplace starts by focusing on the whole employee. When employees feel they can truly be themselves at work they can unleash their creative thinking, and performance and develop better social connection." -Gemma Allen
A recent WHO report highlights that mental health conditions cost the global economy about $1 trillion annually, underscoring the urgency of addressing rising mental health issues and their substantial societal and business costs. Consequently, the responsibility for reversing this trend has shifted from individuals to organizations and employers. Yet, navigating mental well-being is complex for all types of organizations. While many employers have introduced initiatives like mindfulness practices and mental health days, employee assistance programs, and other support services, these efforts are often deemed inadequate.
Employees are seeking broader cultural shifts to create sustainable, mentally healthy, and inclusive work environments that recognize and meet individual needs. Central to this is a deep understanding of employees, fostering workplace community, and connectivity. Employers need to cultivate a strong connection to employee culture at its core, understanding employees' authentic value and aligning it with organizational goals.
The concept of the "whole employee" has emerged, emphasizing that a productive workplace starts by embracing employees' complete identities. This fosters creativity, performance, and social connections, ultimately creating an environment where people feel respected, valued, and comfortable being their authentic selves. Additionally, examining the changing relationship between people and work is crucial. Recent research underscores the need for a more meaningful employee-employer relationship built on trust and shared purpose.
The pandemic has prompted individuals to reconsider personal values and purpose, raising questions about true happiness and fulfillment. Understanding the impact of the work environment on mental well-being has gained significance due to remote and hybrid work models. Although these models empower employees to determine where they work, the onus remains on employers to ensure well-being. Creating inclusive environments that support flexible working models and enable personal and professional growth is central to fostering a culture of well-being, making authentic mental health management a crucial employer responsibility.