It’s no surprise that many successful companies all have one thing in common: they prioritize the wellbeing of their employees. From company culture, to productivity, to retention and revenue–employee wellness is a win for individuals and organizations overall. As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to share how Syneos Health supports our employee’s mental health, and health and provide you with some tips to boost your personal emotional wellbeing. 

Supporting employee mental health is more than offering counseling sessions through an employee assistance program. Because minorities are disproportionately affected by certain diseases, creating employer wellness programs can often help fill important gaps in care. We aim to support employees in every facet of their wellbeing, including financial, emotional, physical and social health – or as we describe it, the Total Self. Each of these aspects impacts the next, resulting in an interconnected web of wellbeing.  

Wellbeing for the Total Self:  

FINANCIAL HEALTH. A recent LendingClub study reports 64% of the US population live paycheck to paycheck. This means an unexpected auto repair or vet bill could tip your employees into financial distress – even those making over $100k annually. Financial insecurity causes extreme stress, which can lead to (or exacerbate) mental health issues like depression and anxiety, physical health issues such as insomnia and poor eating habits, and even social health issues as people turn down invitations to events like birthday parties due to the financial strain.  

What can employers do? Leverage your retirement plan provider and EAP, or add additional vendors that can offer both general education about financial literacy, as well as one-on-one support for each employee’s unique financial situation and goals.  

What can you do? Don’t wait another day to take control of your finances, because when it comes to money, if something can go wrong – it probably will. Get started with Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps to learn how to save for emergencies, pay off debt and build wealth. 

EMOTIONAL HEALTH. The CDC reports nearly 20% of United States adults experience a mental illness. Depression is at the top of the list of commonly diagnosed mental health conditions. Suffering from depression can reduce an employee’s cognitive performance nearly 35% of the time they spend working. Additionally, emotional health issues often will manifest in physical ways such as high blood pressure, upset stomach or acute illnesses from a weakened immune system. 

What can employers do? Promote flexible work schedules and opportunities to work from home. Build awareness around your existing EAP benefits and advertise free workshops such as Yale’s The Science of Well-Being. Create employee resource groups that give your team members an opportunity to come together, support one another, and build community.  

What can you do? Remember, every time you say “YES!” to something, you are saying “NO!” to something else. Saying yes to something that doesn’t promote a sense of wellbeing is the same as saying no to something that does. List out your priorities and only say yes to things that give you a sense of purpose.  

PHYSICAL HEALTH. You may know the mind and body are connected, but did you know chronic pain impacts mood, behavior, thought patterns and even substance addictions? The CDC reports 60% of US adults have a chronic disease and the National Health Interview Survey found 20.4% of US adults suffer from chronic pain. Employees experiencing chronic disease and pain are at high risk for depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.  

What can employers do? Hire a Master Certified Health Education Specialist to build out a robust wellbeing program that spans the entire spectrum of health – meeting employees where they are. Add condition specific programs to address chronic health issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity and musculoskeletal pain to help employees better manage and reverse these diseases.  

What can you do? Work with your manager to create balance in your schedule, so that you have the time and support required to prioritize your wellness.  Remember if you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness. Build movement into your daily routine. According to the American Psychological Association, regular exercise like walking promotes pain relief, reduces anxiety and depression while increasing serotonin, a hormone responsible for boosting mood.  

SOCIAL HEALTH. Full-time employees spend nearly half of their waking hours at work so it’s no wonder that work relationships play an important role in mental health. According to a Gallop Poll, 75% of the reasons employees choose to leave a company can be influenced by their managers, and the cost of replacing an employee can be anywhere from 33%-125% of the employee’s salary, depending on industry. 

What can employers do? Recognize employees for the work they do and encourage employees to recognize one another. Though the big wins are great, showing gratitude for the little wins employees do every day can harness a sense of belonging and appreciation. Have managers establish a regular cadence for one-on-one meetings to discuss clear expectations of current work, opportunities for skill building, and career advancement. Finally, encourage employees to step away from their desks and eat lunch together to build personal relationships beyond the work they share. 

What can you do? Be selective about who you spend your personal time with as those around you can either enhance your mental health or diminish it. Consider reducing or eliminating exposure to people who regularly break promises, cause you to feel upset, or are constantly negative. Remember, moods are contagious, so invest in others who lift you up and invest back in you. 

About the Author:

Leslie Archer has worked in corporate wellness since 2011. Prior to that she served in the Army as a Human Resources Specialist. She earned her Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition and is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist. Leslie believes the lifestyle choices we make today are the best predictors for our quality of life tomorrow. As a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach and an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, her goal is to help others achieve their personal vision of health. Her non-judgmental approach honors each person as an expert in his or her own life. Leslie specializes in the knowledge of diabetes and weight management nutrition necessary for lasting change and lifelong results. She enjoys woodworking projects, cooking for friends, hiking with her dogs, attending Renaissance Fairs and playing board games with her family.