October 10th is World Mental Health Day. All around the world, organizations and individuals are raising awareness about the scope of our mental health crisis. When a problem is so huge and so daunting, it’s easy to feel paralyzed and helpless. That’s why the best use of this moment is to shift from general, big-picture awareness toward actionable steps that support mental well-being.
And people want and need help taking action: 91% of Americans say ignoring or not knowing their warning signs of overstress has had a negative impact on their mental well-being, according to a Thrive Global survey of more than 2,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 85. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they wish they knew more small everyday steps to improve their mental well-being.
So what does it mean to shift from awareness to action? In the face of a global crisis, what can any one of us, as individuals, realistically do? As leaders, we can start small — with science-backed steps that encourage our employees to take action and improve their mental health. When we foster an environment that supports employee well-being and encourages team members to bring their whole selves to work, everyone wins. Here are a few ways to get started:
While stress in itself isn’t bad, when stress becomes cumulative it takes a toll on mental health. The trouble is, our hyper-connected, always-on way of working and living is practically designed to compound negative stress. We’ve been conditioned to power through, never taking a moment to recharge ourselves. As a leader, it’s important to build self-awareness around your own habits and model healthy behaviors for your team to follow. That means setting boundaries around email, declaring a set end to your workday, unplugging while on PTO, and taking time to recharge and reset.
Focus on managing the whole human
To instill a culture of well-being in the workplace, we need to take a whole-human approach to leadership. This means seeing your team members not only as employees, but as human beings. Our work can give us purpose and meaning, but it shouldn’t take the place of life. And when we lead with this in mind, we set our people — and our entire organization — up for lasting success. Start asking teammates what’s important to them, what’s on their minds, and what they’re doing to take care of their well-being.
Bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to the forefront
An important part of supporting your employees’ mental health is creating a workplace environment where everybody feels not only psychological safety, but a sense of belonging. A report by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in their executive ranks were 25% more likely to have greater profits than companies in the fourth quartile. In ethnic and cultural diversity the numbers were even higher, with top ranking companies 36% more profitable than those at the bottom. Now is the time to let people’s differences shape the organization, and value every employees’ well-being in a whole human way.