The business case for measuring and managing employee mental wellbeing

Laura-Jane Booker
Laura-Jane Booker | September 19, 2018
Health & Safety
The business case for measuring and managing employee mental wellbeing

This is the second part in our employee mental wellbeing series. If you haven't read it yet, check out part one: Encouraging employees to flourish. Here's a quick recap.

Employee mental wellbeing

Mental wellbeing is a continuum. At the positive end you have flourishers. At the negative end you have languishers.

Flourishing-languishing continuum

The goal of any organisation is to enable all of their employees to be flourishers. Why? Because flourishers drive positive business outcomes such as engagement, productivity, organisational commitment, and organisational citizenship behaviours. Flourishers also take fewer sick days, are more resilient, and are less likely to seek employment elsewhere.

Factors that underlie and contribute to flourishing are health behaviours, work setting, personality and occupational stressors.

But simply knowing this doesn’t help a heck of a lot. We also need to know how to measure and manage employee mental wellbeing.

Measuring and managing employee mental wellbeing

How do we do this? According to Hewitt (2018), you should prevent, identify, and act. But first, it’s crucial to acknowledge that mental wellbeing plays a large role in determining how your employees feel and function in the workplace.

Preventing wellbeing issues

Prevention methods include creating a psychologically safe workspace so employees feel they can speak up should a problem arise. Lead by example and encourage a healthy work-life balance. Confidential employee helplines and mental health courses for team leaders may also be beneficial.

Identifying wellbeing issues

Measuring mental wellbeing is always helpful so you can determine whether it is a significant issue within your team or organisation. More importantly, measurement can help you identify which individuals may be struggling so you can deploy your resources more effectively.

A common and valid scale used to measure mental wellbeing is the DASS 21’ (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale) which is freely available to the public. Within the DASS 21 are 3 valid subscales with 7 items that measure depression, anxiety, and stress. The subscales are designed to be modular, so if for example, you were only interested in measuring stress, you can simply use the 7 stress items. The scales are copyrighted, but you are free to use them without permission or charge as long as you credit the authors (see below for author info).

If you are interested in knowing which employees are flourishing, a common, concise (8 items) and valid scale is ‘The Flourishing Scale’. Again, the scale is copyrighted but you are free to use it without permission or charge as long as you credit the authors (see below for author info).

However, if formal measurement procedures seem too taxing there are common warning signs to look out for. Employees with low mental wellbeing may exhibit behaviour changes such as irritability, nervous twitching, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. Physical symptoms can include pain, dizziness, exhaustion, and lack of appetite.

Act

Once you have identified that there is a problem, ask any affected employees what they need. They will know better than anyone. Be sure to keep all discussions and arrangements strictly confidential.

  • Consider flexible working arrangements – reduced hours, the choice to work from home, and/or extended deadlines.
  • Seek advice from medical professionals, don’t solely rely on intuition.
  • Research and consider implementing employee mental wellbeing programmes, which can also have a positive impact on the bottom line. An independent review of mental health in the UK found that for every £1 spent on employee mental wellbeing programmes, organisations can expect an average return of £4.20.

Make mental wellbeing part of the conversation

Addressing mental wellbeing in the workplace can be a sensitive and somewhat daunting task, but the benefits will always outweigh the discomfort. Let the strive for flourishers commence!

Check out Employee Mental Wellbeing for a more detailed review of the associated academic literature.

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References

The flourishing scale: Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi, D., Oishi, S., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). New measures of well-being: Flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research, 39, 247-266.

DASS 21: Lovibond, P. F., & Lovibond, S. H. (1995). The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) with the Beck Depression and Anxiety Inventories. Behaviour research and therapy, 33(3), 335-343.