When employees can bring their authentic selves to work, the result is a more productive environment.

As Jean Angus, president and CEO of Saint-Gobain Life Sciences states, “I… realized that in order for everyone to bring their best ideas to the table, they had to feel they are working in a safe environment.” 

“Safety is one of the basic needs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and it applies to the workplace as well,” says Angus. “Psychological safety is tied directly to a company’s culture.

Employee Engagement Leads to Innovation

“If people come to work exactly who they are, they are going to be more engaged,” says Angus. This is especially important in a competitive job market, as a 2021 Gallup survey showed that 80% of all employees are not engaged. And there is a strong business case for ensuring that employees are engaged. Innovation becomes easier with a psychologically safe environment, in that employees are less likely to fear failure and more likely to challenge the status quo. This helps with tackling complex problems and uncovering new ways of working.

Psychological Safety Requires Specific Actions

Companies are using a variety of tactics to address mental health issues, which have increased as a result of the pandemic. When the pandemic began, companies had to ensure a variety of safety measures, both physical and mental. Saint-Gobain was able to leverage an existing safety structure. “We have always had specific tools, such as a robust EAP [employee assistance program], ERG [Employee Resource Groups], and a strong EHS culture,” explains Angus. “So, we created a COVID taskforce as a way to leverage those tools to address workforce needs during the pandemic.”

And now as the shift is moving from a pandemic to an endemic, the company is increasing awareness of its mental health benefits, letting employees know that there are still unlimited counseling sessions.

LuAnn Heinen is vice president of Business Group on Health, a nonprofit organization specializing in optimizing workforce strategy through health, benefits and well-being solutions. She notes that this year’s winners of the Best Employers Award for Excellence in Health and Well-Being used a variety of tactics as follows:

  • Well-being/engagement platform (98%),
  • Assessing employee experience with health and well-being benefits (95%),
  • Using employee testimonials to communicate health and well-being benefits (91%) and
  • Deploying a network of well-being champions (89%).

Another important tactic for addressing the pandemic and one that will continue is the increase in both the method and quantity of communication. This rang true across the Business Group on Health winners as well, with practices that include:

  • Cascaded communication campaigns using senior leaders, managers, well-being champions and ERGs;
  • Fireside chats with company leaders, such as CEOs;
  • Weekly messages from CEOs to all employees, encouraging them to share personal stories, such as family members’ health challenges;
  • QR code utilization for quick access to targeted resources; and
  • Well-being platforms and hubs.

Mental Health as an Important Component of Psychological Health

As well-being and wellness programs have been part of corporate offerings for years, there has been more emphasis—even before the pandemic and continuing to the current day—to focus on mental health, which can tie into psychological health. EHS Today’s 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace Report found that a large number of employers say they are prioritizing mental health as part of their wellness programs, with 81.8% saying they have a program in place that focuses on mental health and 6.3% saying they have one planned.

The Business Group on Health is also seeing a high interest in mental health. “Mental health is top of mind for employers in 2022,” says Heinen. She provides some statistics based on the winners’ profiles:

  • 91% have made changes to address burnout;
  • 88% offer support for family, adolescent and/or pediatric mental health;
  • 86% have initiatives and benefits that address suicide;
  • 82% have mental health allies or champions in place; and
  • 80% have initiatives and benefits that address substance use disorders.

While those statistics apply to that specific group of winners, the EHS Today survey found that structured policies are lacking at many organizations. In fact, 33.9% of respondents said they either don’t have a mental health policy in place or “don’t know” if they have one. Of the companies that have a program, respondents rate those programs as merely adequate (21.7%) or poor (13.7%).

This will be a hurdle for companies to overcome as the uncertainty with regard to the COVID-19 virus will be a continued factor in planning, both from a physical safety and a mental safety aspect.

Source: Industry Week