The Role of Mental Well-Being in Employee Experience

Mental well-being is tied to happier work, more effective collaboration, and increased productivity—learn how to keep employees' minds top of mind.

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The Calm Team

6 min read

What is employee experience?

In past decades, people’s view of their work was fairly transactional. The general attitude was reflected in the format of job ads: do the tasks on this list, and you’ll receive this amount of money. 

Nowadays, ideas are changing. People don’t see such a sharp division between their lives and their work. They don’t just evaluate their jobs as tasks they carry out to earn money, but as rounded experiences. They’re looking for opportunities to grow, not just grind—to learn as well as earn. 

Many organizations have already woken up to the importance of a positive culture in the workplace. But employee experience is broader than that. It also encompasses the physical workspace, workstyle choices, work-life balance, acknowledging diversity, alignment on goals and values, and employees’ all-around well-being—physical, emotional, and mental. 

Looking to take a proven, well-rounded approach to enrich your team’s well-being? Book a Calm For Business demo here.

Why mental health is vital to the workplace experience

While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to mental health, increased mental well-being is tied to happier work, more effective collaboration, and increased productivity. On the flip side, poor mental health can more easily lead to depression, isolation, and burnout

So mental health isn’t an afterthought or a “nice to have.” It’s actually a fundamental pillar on which your team’s success is built. 

Creating an employee experience that keeps mental well-being in mind isn’t just great for improving your people’s mental health in the workplace—it cascades into your entire office culture. It shows your people that they’re working with a company that respects and reciprocates their time and effort—a notion that can help foster increased motivation, reduced turnover, and even off-hours happiness as well.

In short: It’s easy for your company to talk about valuing their team’s well-being, but tangibly working to improve the employee experience actually shows it. Plus, when you offer a thoughtful employee experience, you’re in a far more likely position to attract, nurture and develop the most talented employees.

Building out an employee experience strategy

Managers and HR leaders recognize that cultivating a healthy employee experience is crucial— actually executing on that is still a challenge.

In a recent Deloitte survey, nearly 80% of executives rated employee experience as being very important or important, but only 22% reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience. 

To truly support mental well-being, the employee experience must not become an exercise in box-ticking. Just as marketing teams have gone beyond measuring customer satisfaction to delivering customer experience, so HR professionals must do more than simply carry out employee surveys. Instead, they need to develop an all-around employee experience strategy. 

That can be a tall order when company structures are complex and diffuse. Employees may be covering multiple roles, yet still working remotely and rarely meeting their colleagues. But of course, that situation makes it even more important to consider what they’re going through—not just in practical terms, but mentally too. 

The key to cultivating a great employee experience is to primarily consider the perspective of the employees themselves. What does the experience of work look and feel like across your organization? Where do your people feel valued? Where are there gaps? 

In other words, instead of working backward from a general, broad goal of “happier employees,” take a holistic view of how your actions practically come together for the employee—and listen to what they tell you about their lived experience at work.

Start at the beginning

First impressions last. And an employee experience that supports mental well-being starts at the very beginning of the employee lifecycle. 

How the recruitment and onboarding process signals care for employee well-being (or doesn’t) shapes the experience and expectations around everything that comes afterward—and could also affect people’s decision to join in the first place. 

Part of prioritizing mental health from the very start is delivering a positive candidate experience that’s big on communication and collaboration. People want to feel that they’re involved in a discussion between equals—that they’re becoming part of a team, not just signing away their time.

When someone is job seeking, nothing is more stressful than uncertainty and lack of information. So to support mental well-being throughout, it can help to keep candidates closely involved at every step in the recruitment process, so they always know what stage they’re at, and what’s going to happen next. 

Mapping the journey

If you want your employee experience strategy to nurture the mental health of everyone in your organization, it needs to take account of the differences between them. 

That definitely includes diversity in dimensions such as race, age, gender, neurocognition, and physical ability. But it also includes diversity in terms of skills, experience, and organizational tenure. 

A 20-something new hire in a fast-paced sales team has a very different emotional life from a 50-plus member of a team that’s being downsized. While both may have needs around their mental well-being, they’re unlikely to be the same. 

Employee journey mapping is a way to look at the whole employee experience, from onboarding through to leaving, and consider every touchpoint along the way. It’s a little like customer journey mapping, but with an inward rather than an outward focus. 

When you adopt the perspective of a journey, you acknowledge that everyone is at a different stage. Some have only just arrived, others are more experienced, and others are on the point of leaving or retiring. All these aspects feed into employees’ thoughts and feelings, with a direct impact on their experience and mental health. 

Make it meaningful

Employees want to feel that their work is meaningful, and that their environment is supportive. Having a purpose and a sense of ownership boosts their motivation, mood, and productivity. On the flip side, feeling directionless or disempowered at work leads to low mood and frustration. 

Meaning has two dimensions. First, work has meaning to the firm when it contributes to a long-term goal or supports a higher value. That gives employees a “why” that imparts meaning to the “what” and the “how” of their day-to-day work. One study in Human Resource Management International Digest found that a strong focus on talent and purpose during the induction phase helps employees to feel they belong. 

Second, work has meaning for employees themselves when they feel that their own values are aligned with those of the organization they work for. People want to feel that they’re doing good—or, at the very least, not doing badly. So workers need to understand what the organization stands for, and how their work plays a part. 

A full-circle perspective

Even with the most thoughtful employee experience strategy, turnover is inevitable. But companies can harness the end of the employee lifecycle to gather valuable feedback and shine a light on the reality of the working experience.

Incorporating employee experience inquiries into exit interviews or leaving surveys can offer a unique, usually more reservation-free perspective. Insights gained here can go a long way towards revealing what does or doesn’t work in your company, and can ultimately strengthen retention and employee well-being.

Mental wellness supportwhen and where they need it

To bolster a holistic employee experience and help your people maintain their mental wellness, we offer Calm for Business. Calm gives your employees a set of simple yet highly effective tools for maintaining their mental fitness at work, from better sleep and mindfulness to body stretches and meditations—all with engagement metrics to show how Calm is helping your workers stay well. To find out more, book a demo now

Help employees stress less, sleep better, and build more resilience with Calm Business

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