MOBE | Happiness matters: Five strategies for improving employee…

Happiness matters: Five strategies for improving employee mental health.

By: Chris Cronin, CEO

Leadership requires more than an inspiring vision—it must also demonstrate support for those being led. For employers, that means providing practical, tangible ways to meet each employee’s individual needs so they can deliver at work, care for their health, and feel fulfilled.

Two full years into the pandemic, business leaders understand more than ever that employee happiness is much more than a “feel-good” question on an employee survey. In a recent Harvard Business Review study, 89% of employees surveyed said their workplace well-being declined since the start of Covid-19. Many people surveyed spoke to negative changes, with general mental health declines, increased job demands, and a lack of social connection leading the way as the most commonly-referenced challenges. Research by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School found that happy workers were 13% more productive.

In the face of a growing labor shortage, “The Great Resignation,” and the ongoing, increasing need for mental health support, the drive to create mentally healthy workplaces is more urgent than ever.

Earlier this month, my colleagues Jason Doescher, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Leslie Helou, PharmD, VP, Medication Strategies, and Denise Vance-Rodrigues, Chief Commercial Officer, Employer gathered to discuss these topics and more, as part of our webinar titled “Undoing Unhappiness.” In their discussion, they uncovered what’s getting in the way of addressing these issues and the strategies employers can implement to improve employee mental health.

Here are the five key strategies that employers can utilize to make a significant impact on their workforce’s health and productivity:

1. Help employees engage in their own health with a “whole-person” approach.

Many factors contribute to our daily health and happiness—from exercise and nutrition to managing chronic conditions and the medications we take. Though it can be tempting to manage each of these components individually, we find that when people are supported holistically, they thrive. That means having the appropriate guidance and support to understand how an individual’s medications, nutrition, fitness, and other factors like sleep and mental health impact their overall wellness. The overarching goal is to connect the dots across each of these areas of health—so that we reach the right person, with the right support, at the right time.

2. Integrated medication management.

There is more to the medication story than the medications prescribed for anxiety and depression. We tend to think it’s either lifestyle or medicine—physical or mental health but everything that we do to our body, or put in our bodies, affects not only how it functions but how we feel. To understand and recognize how we think about prescriptions, over-the-counter medicine (OTCs), supplements, and vitamins, we need to consider medication management to be part of that whole person's health journey. MOBE Pharmacists not only consider Rx’s but explore the OTCs, supplements, and vitamins that a participant takes because these are commonly overlooked in traditional medication management. The medications ​that we tend to think of as temporary may actually take a very long time to work and achieve that “better” feeling that people are looking for. We all have different profiles that are unique and they need to be matched up for the unique considerations that each of us has. People aren’t just one issue, they aren’t one condition, they’re not just one treatment or one lifestyle approach. You have to consider all of the different factors at play and that is the foundation of the approach that we take with medications. It takes time, attention, and understanding to determine an individual’s experience with each of the medications they are taking.

3. Provide employees with personalized solutions.

MOBE’s 2021 Workplace Wellness Action Index found that 53% of employers will increase investment in health and wellness benefits overall in 2022ーbut to best address employees’ needs, it’s important to understand what those needs are. The Workplace Wellness Action Index also found that workers crave more information and better-personalized support. When asked how employers could improve health and wellness offerings, employees pointed to better communication about available benefits, more accessible options, more options with one-on-one support, and more offerings tailored to identity-based needs. In other words—one size does not fit all.

4. Normalize and prioritize mental health.

It’s a great time for leadership right now to champion mental health and for them to be honest about mental health. By doing so, it improves the credibility of recognizing what we all know and experience during tremendous amounts of stress and strain. It’s a great time for employers to drive and reinforce a healthy work culture. Demonstrating empathy, respect, and valuing how people feel and interact with each other is key. Employers can also make mental wellness a priority by dedicating organizational leadership and expanding resources for employees. For example, offering employees time to move throughout the day, setting healthy boundaries at work, valuing relationships, and creating a positive culture can combat isolation, which in turn can contribute to an extra week of work lost for isolated and/or lonely employees.

5. Create an offering that engages employees broadly.

As Jason likes to say, “A person’s health is uniquely theirs and they deserve to be treated as individuals in a world where we have so much focus on how to standardize and focus on efficiency.” With so many different health needs and priorities across your workforce, point solutions should be considered carefully. For example, when we only target specific conditions we can miss some of the individuals who might need support. As we talk about happiness and engaging around mental health, we have to recognize that people are different and there isn't a one size fits all approach that everyone is going to respond to. An effective health and wellness program will offer an incentive structure based on program performance and will provide a highly-personalized service that recognizes and addresses individual needs.

Employees’ evolving needs and expectations will require creating a new workplace reality, especially when it comes to our mental and physical health needs. To learn more about the key strategies to improve employees’ mental health, watch the webinar on-demand.

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