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Employee Emotional Wellness

Emotional unwellness is an invisible plague eating at the morale, productivity, and loyalty of your employees. It will not go away simply by ignoring it. It demands your attention, and will get it in one way or the other. Read on to learn what wellness is and why you should support it in your employees.

What Is Emotional Wellness?

According to the National Center for Emotional Wellness, the term refers to an awareness, understanding, and acceptance of your emotions, and your ability to manage effectively through challenges and change.

In terms of the workplace, it means you are able to manage your emotions so you perform well at work and have positive connections with your coworkers.

Another way to understand it is that you feel well. If we are talking about physical health, we say, “Are you feeling well?” In essence, that is an invitation for you to scan your body and see if physical pain is present or absent.

In an emotional sense, we rarely ask that question, but it has two meanings. One is to do an emotional scan and see if emotional pain (or unresolved emotion) is present or absent. Another sign of that is whether you do well in the act of feeling. This means you actually feel the spectrum of emotions.  You feel sad.  You feel happy!  You feel worried.  You feel excited!

As humans, we are emotional beings.  Emotions are meant to be felt, not ignored or denied.  Feeling your emotions (and being empowered on what to do with them) is a sign of emotional wellness.

Why You Need to Support the Emotional Wellness of Your Employees

Emotions exist, and everyone experiences them. If you understand and acknowledge emotions, you live a healthy life.  If you ignore the emotions and pretend they don’t exist, they begin to influence your life. You will begin to turn to coping mechanisms in an attempt to “feel better.”

At the workplace, what can this look like? Here is an example. You have an employee, Jack, who was a good worker. Lately, his performance has been dropping, and he doesn’t seem to have his usual positive attitude at work. He has begun to spend extra time talking to employees around the water cooler, and you notice he gets to work late because he sleeps in a lot. Some companies would quickly move to a performance plan and draft plans to kick him out.

If you look only at his behavior, you will likely arrive at the conclusion that his behavior better change or he will lose his job. But let’s pause and see this from an emotional wellness standpoint. Why would a good employee suddenly have this behavior?

If you take the time to talk to Jack, you may learn that his mother recently passed away and his father just found out he has terminal cancer.  On top of that, his manager has put extra pressure on him for a few deadlines.

Jack’s performance has been dropping because the stress of home combined with the pressure of work has begun to be too much. This also explains his attitude.  He doesn’t see success at home or at work.

He spends extra time at the water cooler trying to connect with employees to find support. Finally, he has gotten so exhausted with all his demands (both physically and mentally) that he has a hard time getting up in the morning.

So what can you do?

You can save a good employee by supporting his emotional wellness instead of just hoping he “gets over it” and putting him on a performance plan. According to the CDC,

“Well-being is the ability of individuals to address normal stresses, work productively, and realize one’s highest potential.”

Your role places you in situations where you see and hear emotions often. Because you have that experience and perspective, you are uniquely qualified to support the emotional wellness of your employees.  In fact, you are in a prime spot because you get to see how management’s behavior affects the employees’ emotions. Knowing how each side is affecting the other gives you a powerful perspective as you support the emotional wellness of your employees.

Emotions drive humans.  Humans drive performance.

Here are five reasons why emotional wellness is more than a “nice to have.”

  • If you don’t invest in emotional wellness, your employees will find a different company that will. 
  • Talent is no longer just about finding someone who will do the job.  Talent is about providing a culture where your employees can perform at their best—a place where they feel psychologically safe and can make mistakes, learn and grow, and be supported when life happens.
  • You can choose to invest in emotional wellness, or you can pay for increased healthcare.
  • 80% of CEOs believe that poor employee mental health negatively impacts worker productivity.
  • As mentioned before, most people hide or distract themselves from how they truly feel. Unresolved emotions can turn into mental illness, which is very costly in terms of productivity, treatment, and suffering. If you knew you could avoid these costs, wouldn’t you?
  • Supporting employee wellness builds connection, trust, and loyalty more than almost anything else. It isn’t the ping-pong tables that keep employees. It isn’t the landscape, the product, or the balance sheet; it isn’t even the paycheck. You’ve heard it before: “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.”  So let’s look at that a different way.  If employees leave bosses, training bosses in connection and trust will build better employee loyalty than anything else you do.

How Employers Can Promote Emotional Wellness in the Workplace

Here are three ways you can get started promotion emotional wellness:

1. Listen

The most important thing when considering actions to support employee wellness is to listen to what your employees need. If you come with a wellness “solution” without understanding your employees’ needs, you will not see the success you are hoping for.

When you listen (truly listen, without judgment or interruptions), the other person feels safe, heard, and loved. These qualities foster an incredibly healing environment for emotions—and you will learn what you can do to truly support your employees’ emotional wellness.

Although listening is not a new concept, you would be surprised how many people don’t do it.  We are so quick to rush to an initiative that we don’t listen to what people actually want.

If you truly listen to your employees, you have a huge impact on their emotional wellness because they begin to feel heard.  When someone feels heard, they feel like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders and they then have the capacity to focus on other things.

So find a way to listen to your employees. If you are going to do a survey, keep it short and actually act on it. Doing a survey with no action is worse than not doing a survey at all. You can also host listening groups, town halls, etc.

2. Educate and Build Awareness

Mental health has become such a big issue because for years nobody talked about it. Educating your employees, managers and leadership brings accurate knowledge about a subject that can sometimes be misunderstood or misconstrued.  If someone could understand how closely related anxiety and excitement are, it could change their world!

Bring proper education around emotions and help build awareness in your company.  As people become aware, they begin to care. You will see the magic as people begin to make connections because they realize they aren’t the only ones feeling a certain way.

3. Make It Safe

Nothing destroys emotional wellness and vulnerability like judgment and shame. If you listen and build awareness but then shame someone for talking about or expressing their emotions, you will destroy trust.

Instead, make it safe by leading by example. It is very powerful to hear a leader be vulnerable.  When you can share your emotions, you give others permission to experience theirs.

Examples of Effective Workplace Emotional Wellness Initiatives

Need some inspiration? Check out these three examples of effective emotional wellness initiatives:

1. Train Your Managers – SHRM

Johnny C. Taylor, President of the National Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), acknowledged the importance of mental/emotional wellness.  SHRM teamed up with PsychHub to offer trainings on mental wellness. Anyone can purchase these trainings at https://www.workplacementalhealth.shrm.org/.

Don’t do this alone.  You can be more effective if you “make more of you.” That means to train managers so they can help with emotional wellness. The truth is, they can either be a part of the problem or part of the solution; it depends on their training.

There are many apps available to promote emotional wellness. You can encourage your employees to use them, or even buy a company licence to make them available as a benefit. Some examples are Impact, HeadSpace, and ModernHealth.

2. Allow for Flexibility – Conductix

Everyone deals with their emotions in different ways, and sometimes unforeseen and stressful life events happen.  A company’s willingness to be flexible can go a long way in emotional wellness.

Flexibility means not being too rigid in how and when work gets done.  Since COVID, remote work and telecommuting is more widespread. If employees are still getting their work done, then great!  And if a project is due by tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., does it really matter if it was completed at 10:30 p.m. the night before?

You may be thinking that your company already offers flex time and remote work. Those are great starts.  But flexibility includes your conversation and culture. How do you react when someone needs flexibility? If you are upset or judgmental when they need it, then the effect is not helpful.

Conductix is one example of a company that has embraced flexibility.  They allow for work from home or flex shifts to encourage the important balance of work and life. Their flexibility is part of an emotional wellness package that includes access to an Employee Assistance Program, trainings, and other things that make it OK to take care of yourself and still get the work done.

3. Destigmatize It – Unilever

Unilever makes mental health awareness a priority by destigmatizing it.  Through in-person workshops on mindfulness and manager trainings, they have created a culture where employees feel comfortable seeking help when needed. Managers are trained, the topic is not taboo, and employees feel safe.  Additionally, the employees have access to health information and urgent assistance through an app the company created.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Emotional Wellness

What are some good employee wellness programs?
Here are a few impressive employee wellness programs to inspire you. ImpactSuite(https://www.impactsuite.com/). ImpactSuite offers a few different apps that cover all areas of wellness and give you daily tools on how to strengthen those areas. LifeGuides(https://lifeguides.com/). LifeGuides is a company that offers access to “sherpas” at a low cost per employee. The “sherpa” refers to someone who is not a therapist (takes away the intimidation) but is more qualified than a friend. People need connection, and can connect to someone who has actually experienced something similar. Reach Your Ultimate Potential(http://www.reachyourultimatepotential.com). In order for an HR professional to implement emotional wellness at work, the professional must understand emotional wellness themselves. RYUP is a service that primarily empowers HR directors on how to properly manage their emotions. It is mixed with life coaching principles so directors not only manage their emotions better, but learn skills on how to accomplish the big things at work they are working on.
What can affect an employee’s emotional wellness?
Many things can affect an employee’s emotional wellness. Here are a few examples: Life events: death, birth, illness, marriage, moving, school, etc. Managers: the way a manager manages can have a larger effect on the employee’s emotional wellness than almost anything else. Deadlines: deadlines can cause stress and anxiety. Culture: the perceived safety towards emotional wellness determines the outcome. Environment: culture is the invisible environment. Environment includes workspace, coworkers, and general safety. Connection: are your employees connecting with one another? Connection to others helps us manage stress and gain support.
Ben Eden

Ben Eden

Ben Eden received his bachelors’ degree in HR at Weber State University and Master of Human Resources (MHR) through Utah State University. He received his SHRM-SCP shortly thereafter. He ran the HR department for an international family entertainment company for 7 years. They had nearly 2,000 employees in 33 states and 6 countries. He is now an Executive Coach and Speaker that brings emotional wellness to HR professionals.

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