International Day of Peace falls on September 21 each year, with a message for all to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace. Organizations are a blend of different people and characteristics, so how can they help millennials find peace in the workplace, particularly to support their mental health and wellbeing?
There has been an increase in the adoption of employee wellbeing programs in recent years with companies trying to help employees find work-life balance, especially in highly-pressurized work environments such as banking and law. Companies have not only focused on mental and physical health but also taken measures to help employees improve their financial and nutritional wellbeing too. The benefits of these for the company is a boost in productivity.
Examples of implemented programs include dedicated wellbeing and meditation rooms, subsidized gym memberships, and healthy snacks on site. Some companies, including law firms, have even taken the opportunity during office moves to steer away from the traditional office setup by removing corner offices and using the increased access to space but focusing on wellbeing zones. These changes largely align with what employees want in the workplace, although there is a significant trend towards a desire for more flexibility and choice, over specified company programs that can sometimes be too prescriptive.
The result of these programs, to some surprise, was an increase in productivity, a decrease in absenteeism, and a decrease in healthcare costs. This caused an overall positive shift and companies examined other areas in which they could improve their employees’ health and wellbeing, which subsequently increased morale and engagement.
There are challenges associated with these programs; encouraging engagement, reducing stigma and uncontrollable external pressures are all barriers on the employee side.
Engagement is difficult - stigma around mental health still exists in the workplace and the perception of snowflakes and a needy generation could prevent employees from using these benefits, as well as being open about using them to others (which would therefore increase overall engagement). One way to relieve some of this pressure is to foster more open dialogue around mental health issues - holding workshops, giving employees access to resources and training people as mental health first aiders are all steps organizations can take to practice what they are preaching.
Client and external pressures are another avenue of difficulty. These factors can be unpredictable and difficult to manage in line with client business and revenue goals. While internally there can be a shift towards using these services more frequently, the actual practicalities of doing so can be significantly different because of deadlines and other moving parts. A solution could be to invite key clients into the dialogue - seek their experiences while adding an additional layer of transparency to the conversation.
The future development of these programs rests on organizations keeping a focus on flexibility and being creative where possible. There is no perfect answer or approach, but with an increasingly anxious generation in the workplace, health and wellbeing is an important two-way street.