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Employee Mental Health and the Benefits of Inclusion

Work should be a secure environment for all employees. However, there is instant worry about organizational culture and how it affects employee mental health when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

One in every five adults in the United States suffers from a mental disease. And, especially at work, you don’t have to be professionally diagnosed to feel the effects of stress and anxiety.

According to data published in the Harvard Business Review, workplace stress is disproportionately high for underrepresented groups compared to white cis-gendered colleagues.

  • In comparison to white respondents, black and Latinx respondents were 50 percent more likely to voluntarily leave a job and had higher rates of mental health symptoms.
  • Employees from the LGBTQ+ group reported higher rates and lasted longer with mental health symptoms.
  • Women were more likely than men to have sought treatment for a mental illness in the past.

In fact, an employee’s view of their company’s DEI activities has an impact on their overall job satisfaction.

“Those workers who feel their firm is ‘not doing enough’ to encourage diversity and inclusion had a Workforce Happiness Index score of 63, significantly below the 75 among those who say their company is doing ‘about the appropriate amount,” according to an April 2021 study of over 8,000 employees.

In the end, mental health is a matter of diversity and inclusion.RisePath This article outlines some ideas for keeping your staff happy, healthy, and engaged through your inclusion strategy.

Employee Mental Health

Why are DEI and employee mental health two sides of the same coin?

1. Job fulfilment

Employee satisfaction at work is driven by their sense of belonging, regardless of how you slice it. No one likes the feeling of having to “conceal” who they are at work, yet it is, unfortunately, a typical occurrence.

An inclusive workplace is one that values intersectionality and allows individuals to express themselves fully at work. It embraces each team member’s whole self, including (and most importantly) our differences.

Our mental health improves when our true selves are appreciated, and this is especially true for team leaders.

Employees report 3.4X more job satisfaction when their supervisors are inclusive, according to a recent survey.

2. Increased inventiveness

Exclusionary company cultures do not breed innovation.

While many firms seek individuals with a specific degree, references, years of experience, and background, a group of employees with widely different life experiences can often generate the best work.

The days of “great minds think alike” are over, and forward-thinking teams that embrace a “great minds think differently” mindset are here to stay.

Your team’s mental health may suffer if you don’t have an innovative corporate culture. It will also have a direct impact on their work, particularly creative and inventive work.

In a survey of 1,350 US workers regarding mental health and creativity, it was found that the more employees who struggled with mental health, the more effort it took them to be creative.

To put this in context, those who said they were “not at all” concerned about their mental health spent 23% less time generating creative work. That’s a substantial amount of struggle that, with the right culture, may be easily overcome.

Every employee has a seat at the table in an inclusive company culture, and recognising differences leads to increased creativity and innovation. In fact, it was discovered that inclusive businesses are 1.7X more likely to be innovators and 1.8X more likely to adapt to change.

3. Increased efficiency

As if the preceding numbers weren’t enough to persuade you that employee mental health is a business priority, a whopping 61 percent of workers think their mental health has an impact on their productivity.

Lack of representation, microaggressions, unconscious bias, and other workplace pressures affect underrepresented groups in particular. All of these factors have an impact on employees’ mental health and productivity at work.

The good news is that these stressors are considerably reduced in an inclusive setting.

Creating a safe area for employees to communicate about work stress is one aspect of an inclusive atmosphere. Despite the fact that the CDC advocates discussing stress with coworkers and supervisors (particularly in light of Covid-19), a large number of employees still feel uncomfortable doing so.

Recently, an employee poll was conducted and it was discovered that:

  • Around 35% of respondents believe they are unable to discuss stress openly at work.
  • 11 percent of participants stated their workplace culture discouraged them from discussing stress.
  • Women are more prone than men to be afraid of the negative consequences of discussing work-related stress.

A culture that thrives on open communication is critical to employee wellbeing, whether it’s a simple “How have you been?” in your next one-on-one meeting or a company-wide discussion on mental health.

4. Collaboration + community

Humans thrive on social interaction.

The sense of belonging to something larger than oneself might improve one’s mental health and self-esteem. Coworkers who are part of an inclusive workplace culture perceive themselves as members of a community.

The outcomes of 10,000 replies since the start of the pandemic led to additional knowledge regarding inclusive leadership and the impact on underrepresented minorities in a survey.

The epidemic has disproportionately impacted underrepresented groups in a variety of ways, and managers must recognise that this includes the workplace. According to the findings, URMs (underrepresented minorities) are 1.6X more likely than their counterparts in other groups to have low belonging, which is a leading sign of willingness to stay.

The lower the employee’s psychological safety, the fewer feelings of belonging, connection, and support, according to the survey.

Clearly, a diverse workplace can help to alleviate these negative feelings while also improving employee mental health and productivity. But it must all begin with leadership.

Tips for enhancing employee mental health and inclusion

In today’s global business climate, which is riddled with obstacles in demography, skills, and culture, businesses that establish a truly inclusive culture will outperform their contemporaries. Why? When people feel valued, empowered, and respected by their peers, they perform better.

The evidence is in the hiring statistics.

Indeed, one in every four candidates cites a better corporate culture as one of the main reasons for quitting a job. But there is enough reason for optimism. 

You can prioritise DEI and concentrate on specific areas to improve your corporate culture while also helping your employees’ mental health. Here are some ideas for getting it done.

Concentrate on DEIB training and implementation.

Whether you call it D&I, DEI, DEIB, or any other acronym, your commitment to inclusion must start at the top of the organisation. Employees will notice if the CEO of your firm does not care about creating an inclusive atmosphere.

There is an all-too-common misunderstanding that diversity equals inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion are not synonymous, and neither occurs through osmosis. In order to make employees feel more engaged, valued, and safe at work, programmes must be targeted to achieve specific goals. As a cultural necessity, organisations must be proactive in establishing diversity and encouraging involvement and acceptance within the workplace.

Make no mistake: a yearly catch-all training session will never be sufficient to complete the task.

Your company must first identify specific organisational and employee difficulties, then design a DEI plan and select training that will aid in the implementation of that strategy. Differentiating how data is collected and used can make a big difference.

To acquire a comprehensive image of your company culture, use statistics.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply check boxes on several hires and call it a day.

On a daily basis, including during the hiring process and beyond, inclusion must be woven into the company culture.

You may get to the heart of your DEI approach by asking questions rather than focusing on stats.

Here are some examples of questions to ask:

  • ‘How long does it take for employees from diverse and minority backgrounds to go up the corporate ladder from onboarding to senior management?’
  • ‘What are the salary disparities between men and women at each level, and why?’

After recruiting diverse personnel, asking questions and collecting data will help you better understand the company’s genuine inclusion practices and how these practices may affect employee mental health in the long term.

This type of data will identify any hurdles or biases in the employment lifecycle, allowing firms to address any issues more holistically.

You should continue the discussion regarding DEI techniques on a regular basis before, during, and after the data collection process.

Open up a conversation about mental health.

Without fear of consequences, every employee should feel free to address diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

An inclusive workplace is a space where disenfranchised voices are empowered to make genuine decisions that affect the organisation that they are a part of.

When it comes to establishing trust between employees and management, honesty is crucial. It should be no different when it comes to communicating your DEI objectives, progress, and areas for improvement.

Following through on your DEI goals is arguably the most critical. This demonstrates to employees that you’re not simply making promises; you’re actively working to create the most inclusive workplace possible.

Maintaining an open debate about DEI is just as vital as ensuring mental health is not a taboo topic in the business culture.

Employers can help employees with mental illness in a variety of ways, including:

  • Including mental health days in the calculation of paid sick time.
  • Employee assistance programmes provide professional assistance.
  • Changes in personnel schedules and responsibilities are welcomed.
  • Sharing mental health resources ahead of time.

Because the evidence shows that the more employees feel supported at work, the higher their job happiness, inventiveness, and productivity.

Make your workplace a safe and welcoming environment.

While we all want to offer a safe working environment for our employees, research reveals that not all workplaces are created equal when it comes to DEI.

Without inclusion, diversity is meaningless. Your overall culture will improve if your workplace is more inclusive.

It all comes down to your DEI plan in the end. Look deep and see what’s really missing from your plan and execution. Remember, you don’t have to have everything perfect right away. You’ll be able to make greater progress for the entire organisation if you stay devoted to learning and aim to build the best safe space for employees.

Christine Lee

Christine is a former HR manager from Fortune 500 tech companies and has managed hiring, compensation and benefits, and payroll responsibilities for multiple companies.

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