Mental health remains a top priority for organisations, as employees globally report increasing levels of stress, burnout, and other well-being issues. Employers are investing more in workplace mental health initiatives, which are yielding positive results. However, the modern workforce seeks a holistic approach – beyond conventional benefits or advanced tools.
A recent survey by HP found that just 27% of knowledge workers feel they have a healthy relationship with their work. That’s a big problem—for people and for business. Because no company can succeed long-term without a motivated and engaged workforce, companies need to consider the bigger picture when it comes to mental health, such as creating a culture of support, providing meaningful work, and offering flexible work environments.
A remarkable 78% of individuals across 31 countries now equate mental health with physical well-being, as per Ipsos' recent survey. Surpassing cancer in significance, it's now the top health concern. One thing is evident: a profound transformation is underway in our collective awareness of mental health.
Yet, “mental health broadly is not improving”. According to Kelly Greenwood, Founder and CEO of Mind Share Partners, employees are struggling in their jobs due to economic uncertainty and workplace factors such as unsustainable workloads, lack of supportive communities, and systemic inequalities.
In countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Singapore, a majority say mental well-being is treated with an equal level of priority as physical health. Nearly half of Singaporeans consider mental health the most pressing health issue and nearly 8 in 10 Singaporeans believe it is equally vital as their physical health. However, it also exposed a concerning trend - a significant portion of the population experiences persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Melanie Ng, director of public affairs at Ipsos in Singapore, expressed concern over the findings that mental health and stress occupy two of the top three places when it comes to the healthcare priorities facing Singapore.
In India, while attitudes towards mental health are gradually changing, marked by increased awareness and a reduction in stigma, toxic work culture and career decisions remain key factors causing stress. The ITC’s Feel Good with Fiama Mental Well-being Survey reveals that respondents experiencing workplace stress actively seek better work-life balance policies.
Sustainable organisational culture outstrips therapy
Investing in organisational culture outperforms therapy and self-care, according to Mind Share Partners. Historically, employers have taken an individual approach to mental health, providing therapy, apps, and time off. But that’s not what employees find most helpful. Close to 80% say an emphasis on healthy and sustainable workplaces would be moderately to extremely helpful.
The report notes a surge in mental health symptoms and a decline in overall mental well-being. While there's been a positive 20% reduction in reported symptoms this year, confidence in personal mental health continues to decline.
The HP study, with 15,000 respondents across 12 countries, strongly advocates for an evolved company culture. An impressive 83% are willing to trade a lower salary for a happier work environment.
Additionally, investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) significantly boost mental health. Women, Gen Z, Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ employees often face more challenging mental health circumstances. Those who feel supported by their employer tend to exhibit higher engagement, commitment, and improved mental health outcomes.
Rekindling the broken employer-employee relationship
When it comes to the hybrid work debate, employee voice matters. No one way of working was found to be better for workers' mental health than the rest. One interesting theme emerged within hybrid workers—those with some level of control and influence over where they work tended to experience better outcomes when it comes to mental health, engagement, and work itself.
As more companies enforce strict return-to-work policies, this may exacerbate the challenges for certain employees, particularly those with long commutes. It's imperative for organizations to find common ground to resolve the enduring standoff between executives and employees in the highly-discussed return-to-office debate. While some are prepared for hybrid or in-office work, others are apprehensive about reverting to pre-pandemic work styles. As hybrid and in-office work models continue to evolve, leaders must ensure plans are aligned with employee preferences.
The time has come to reinvigorate our relationships with work. The HP study underscores that only 25% of respondents feel they consistently receive the respect and value they deserve. Even fewer enjoy the flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance they desire. As work models evolve, leaders must prioritize the changing needs of employees to ensure a happier and more productive workforce, driving innovation and creating more successful companies in the process.
Dr Benjamin Granger, Qualtrics' Chief Workplace Psychologist, emphasises, “While every employee’s mental health needs are unique, an organisation’s culture reflects the shared beliefs, values, and behaviours of all employees and has the potential to promote mental health, and by extension, the organisation as a whole.