Workplace Wellness in the Age of Transparency

Every year, World Mental Health Day is the one day that people break the silence about their triumphs and struggles with mental health. But why is it that there’s only one day per year that we feel comfortable having an open dialogue about mental health? On other days, we hide behind stigma and stay silent, as if our well-being is a taboo subject that should never be mentioned.

We here at Nebo believe talking about mental health should be anything but taboo in the workplace. We believe that so much so that we are implementing a Wellness Committee.

Last year, I wrote a blog post in efforts to break the silence about mental health. This proclamation disdaining the shame around mental health ignited a lot of conversation here at Nebo. But we didn’t just want to talk about it. We wanted to do something actionable.

The mental health initiative here at Nebo is being created for the purpose of starting conversations, diminishing the stigma around mental health and increasing awareness and accessibility to resources. This initiative is striving to reduce the disgrace of mental health and reaching out for help in a way that ultimately shows not only our office that that mental health truly is a priority, but that it demonstrates this urgency to the agency industry as a whole.

Why Is This Important?

Employees across the nation are feeling unheard, undervalued and overworked, and we as employees are tolerating it. Need proof? According to a recent study, 53% of Americans are unhappy at their jobs. That’s a little over half of the entire country. 

And yet, corporations are ignoring how much this epidemic costs them. According to a World Health Organization study, 12 billion work days will be lost to depression and anxiety disorders each year between 2016 and 2030 if mental health treatments aren’t improved worldwide. The lack of productivity costs nearly $1 trillion per year, and every dollar invested in treatment creates a $4 return in increased health and work quality.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, work-induced stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly. Don’t get me wrong, some stress is beneficial. Stress, in certain situations, can help you stay focused, spark newfound creativity, increase productivity and heighten problem-solving skills. There is good stress, but when you’ve surpassed your ability to cope, inverse effects can arise.

The long, strenuous hours that many companies impose on employees are resulting in the end of marriages, burdens on raising children, strained friendships and, ultimately, a general disruption to employees’ social environments.

The signs of overwhelming stress are all around you, though much of it goes unnoticed. The dedicated employee whose commitment has resulted in a double-digit weight gain because they don’t have time to exercise or cook at home. Or that coworker of yours who got into a car accident last week after working long nights back to back. And what about that employee who is now prescribed antidepressants?

When companies ignore these signs, the people that are suffering are actually what’s going unnoticed.

We’ve all got our own trials and tribulations, internal struggles and general hard times in our lives. We are all so focused on our own issues that we, in turn, miss others’ cries for help —  just as others don’t always notice your cries.

Overwhelming feelings of worry, impending deadlines, and increased amount of all-nighters as we sprint from one thing to the next lead some to cope by abusing alcohol, drugs and even food. In extreme cases, people take their own lives. People are literally dying for a paycheck.

Workplace stress is toxic. It’s a form of pollution — one that’s going unnoticed and unchallenged. The Environmental Protection Agency enforces a variety of environmental laws to hold corporations accountable for polluting physical environments.

Whose responsibility is it to protect against the pollution of our work environments? Without a third party to enforce regulations around workplace stress, that job lies in the hands of organizations and their leaders.

Well-Being Is a Dealbreaker for Top Talent

Research shows that commitment to health and well-being is among the top three factors that candidates take into account when looking at potential employers.

That’s right — your company’s commitment to mental health, or lack thereof, is a dealbreaker for top talent. And that means it could make or break your organization. 

This is the age of transparency. Any lack of interest that a company might depict about their employees’ health is a risk for your organization’s reputation and ability to draw new hires. Potential candidates care more about ethical employers than they did in the past. And thanks to sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, it’s easy for candidates to sniff out which companies truly value their employees’ well-being.

The U.S. economy is currently experiencing record-low unemployment rates, which means hiring is increasingly competitive. There are more job openings than workers to fill them. This has not only led to a fight for talent, but also high turnover rates. It’s easier than ever for unhappy employees to seek out other positions where the grass looks greener. 

Employers are all vying for the same pool of potential candidates. When this happens, the company with the most appealing, special, unparalleled culture wins. Here is when having a wellness program comes into play. Whether the program is full-blown or has a few perks, this value-added initiative in your culture appeals to entry-level and experienced applicants alike.

If We’re Not Mindful, Agency Life Can Take a Toll

If you work in marketing and advertising, this probably isn’t news to you: on the whole, agency employees are unhappy.

What’s alluring about marketing and advertising is the industry’s creative nature. We’re all competing to make the next big campaign, or be the first to explore how we can use new technologies like AR/VR for ads. It’s an industry with a reputation for fun. But in the race to compete, we’ve lost our sense of play.

People aren’t coming up with the brave, innovative ideas that they used to due to lack of enthusiasm and drive. With so much work to do, in so little time, we tend to work longer hours. People are claiming there just isn’t time to be creative.

While fast-paced work may have attracted us to the ad world, it’s up to agencies to ensure that the pace is sustainable for workers. Employees aren’t machines, they are people. They will burn out, need to take time off and possibly even quit.

Creativity is our job. Advertisers and marketers are some of the brightest, most creative minds in the world. Who better to come up with an innovative solution to our industry’s floundering mental health than us?

How Wellness Programs Can Change the Narrative

Wellness programs are built on the basis of improving employee health. These programs are designed to improve employee productivity and decrease leaves of absence and sick days.

Often times, these programs focus on physical health; however, mental health plays a much larger role in one’s overall health than one might think. It is important that companies include the promotion of mental health initiatives like mindfulness, because let’s face it, anxiety is expensive. The amount employers spend on their employees’ mental health is increasing rapidly.

Even the design of a workplace can make an impact on employee mental health. Having proper lighting decreases the propensity of employees getting headaches. Plus, making the office more colorful and including the color green can induce mood-enhancing effects.

Mental health should be a foundation that every company hinges its culture on. By providing environments that support and encourage mental well-being, organizations can clearly convey that it is not an afterthought.

The first conversation about mental health with an employee shouldn’t happen when they are already beginning to struggle. We need people to know how much we recognize the value of their well-being from the start and when they are doing well, so that when they are struggling, they will find it much easier to approach their manager.

Taking a preventative approach could be vital as many businesses have seen an increase in episodes of mental health issues among their employees in comparison to only a few years ago. Unfortunately, it is getting worse.

And that’s exactly why we are creating a wellness program at Nebo. We want to change the narrative about mental health to one where people feel comfortable speaking up, and feel heard when they do. For that reason, our wellness program is an employee-led initiative rather than a cookie-cutter program from a third party. Furthermore, we’ll be surveying employees about their workplace well-being and needs at work. This program isn’t our leadership team simply just checking off boxes —  it is being sourced from our employees.

It is imperative for companies, and especially agencies, to put mental health strategies in place. Not only will a lack of strategy affect your employees, it will affect your reputation. And if you happen to increase productivity and lower healthcare costs in the process, kudos to you. The alternative is to not try and not care.

Together, we can save lives.

Written by Meleigha Millman on October 10, 2019

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Written by
Meleigha Millman
Paid Social Specialist