The Big Picture: Mental Fitness as Part of a Healthy Workplace Strategy

Explore a holistic approach to employee mental wellness.

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The Calm Team

6 min read

Not surprisingly, employee resilience—the ability to bounce back from mental and emotional stressors—is a hot topic in the HR and benefits world.

HR leaders are rightly concerned about rising stress levels and mental wellness, and they’re actively addressing the issue in innovative ways. 

At Calm, we’re huge believers in these efforts, and we’re convinced the Calm platform can be an important part of the solution. 

But here’s the thing: mental fitness platforms like Calm are only part of a holistic approach to employee well-being. They’re not a magic wand.

Giving your people access to Calm as a workplace benefit does not instantly “solve” sleep, stress, and anxiety issues. It’s part of the solution.

The good news: when you approach employee mental wellness holistically, each of the parts is much more effective. 

“I think a lot about how I ensure my teams have the right culture to show up as their best selves for our business, for our customers, and for each other. I think one of the biggest things you can do is advocate for it.”- Joanna Lord, Former CMO, SkyScanner and ClassPass

The two spheres of employee health and wellness

There are two main spheres of activity for creating a healthy workplace:

  • Giving people the skills and resources to build resilience and improve well-being, so they can better cope with the difficulties of life and work.
  • Creating a work culture of mental wellness—a culture that creates the conditions for mental health at work.

If you invest only in the first sphere—the internal resources—you may be ignoring the most important contributors to workplace stress: the avoidable practices and unconscious signals that contribute to stress and burnout

If your people don’t see an authentic management commitment to improving the work culture, they may (rightly) suspect or reject your initiatives to help with their personal resilience building. 

Your employees will either believe that leadership genuinely cares about their well-being (and invests in it) or see any wellness benefits as an empty gesture designed to placate people and keep them at their desks.

A program like Calm is less likely to be effective in a work culture that consistently demands long hours and weekend work, or one that tolerates workplace bullying, or one where speaking up about workload is frowned upon. 

But in a workplace that actively promotes mental wellness—by taking visible steps to reduce the contributors to stress, overwork, and burnout—initiatives like Calm can show dramatic benefits.

As part of a campaign called #Let’sTalk, Roche Genentech, the biotech company, produced videos with senior leaders talking about their own mental health. They were shared on the company intranet. (Harvard Business Review, Aug 2020)

Ideas for mental wellness programs for employees

Creating a culture of mental wellness will always be a journey. The important thing is to know that your company is on that road and moving in the right direction. 

Here are some of the things we’ve seen companies do to build a culture of mental wellness:

  • Have an open, running conversation. Keep mental wellness on the agenda, publicly; make it part of all-hands meetings; make sure senior executives are walking the talk.
    Bringing mental wellness into the open removes stigma and enlists everyone in the cause.
  • Include mental wellness in employee onboarding. A module on mental wellness signals to every new hire that your company is serious about the issue.
    Start your mental fitness program on day one for every hire.
  • Train managers and supervisors. Make sure managers understand mental wellness. Help them spot the signs of stress and burnout and give them the tools to take appropriate action.
    An employee’s manager is often the most important steward of mental wellness. Make sure they’re equipped to help.

“If we’re open and honest with ourselves about how we can be better leaders, we’re setting an example for our teams to take this perspective too.”- Ashley Waxman, employer brand leader, Asana

Read her story here

  • Create listening channels. Actively seek employee feedback on work issues and mental wellness. Run regular surveys and share the results. Track the usage data in your digital wellness platform (such as Calm). Build in formal and informal feedback loops. Collect the input and show you’re acting on it.
    HR leadership can’t have all the answers. Show that you value people’s views.
  • Create healthy office environments. Include space, light, air, informal breakout spaces, quiet zones, healthy snacks, and more.
    Investing in the work environment is an investment in wellness.
  • Run internal comms campaigns promoting mental wellness. Highlight the issue regularly. Recognize World Mental Health Day (October 10th every year) or (in the US) Mental Health Awareness Month every May. Mental Health America produces a great toolkit every year that can support your campaign.
    Mental health should be an issue all year—but make it the issue a few times each year. (Your Calm account management team can help.)
  • Give everyone access to resilience tools and education. Corporate wellness platforms such as Calm can really help here. It’s a personal, always-available option with no stigma attached. Learn more about Calm Business here.
    Mental fitness skills can be learned and developed—and the benefits reach every employee.
  • Identify your wellness champions. Some people are great at mental fitness and love helping others. When you spot them, give them a platform: integrate their voices into your company programs and campaigns.
    Mental wellness is not just a top-down initiative. It should come from all directions.
  • Give access to professional help. Those in crisis may need more active intervention. Make sure people know help is available. Lyra is a popular benefit that helps employees find the right mental health providers and treatments.
    Mental fitness is for everyone, but one in five employees may need professional help in times of crisis. (Source: NIMH, 2015)

Companies that do these things aren’t just talking about a commitment to mental wellness at work. They’re demonstrating that commitment every day.

“Employees need, and increasingly demand, resources to help them cope with mental health problems.” – McKinsey Quarterly, Dec 2020

Where mental wellness platforms for employees fit

For companies that take mental wellness seriously, digital health platforms can play a critical role. More specifically, mental wellness platforms like Calm can help your people better understand stress, recognize their own relationship with anxiety, and give them the skills and tools to rise to the challenges of today’s pace of work and life.

The key is to use Calm as part of a comprehensive, company-wide mental wellness strategy, not as a quick fix in an otherwise dysfunctional workplace.

The most progressive HR and benefits leaders in some of the world’s best companies are discovering the power of this holistic approach, with Calm as a key component. If you’re not already using it in your company, we’d love to show you the platform. Book a demo here.

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

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