If leaders believe their employees are their most valuable asset, what do they need to do to create an overall culture of wellness within the workplace that necessarily leads to sustainable employee engagement?

Mental health issues are increasing at an alarming rate, yet there appears to be a lack of knowledge of what mental health means, how it arises, and why it impacts not only individuals but also organizations and society at large.

Research by Zenefits indicates a serious disconnect between leaders, management and employee engagement. The prevailing solution is the employee assessment plan (EAP), the objective of which is to provide employees the opportunity to request help for on-the-job mental health issues when they feel they are not coping well. However, only 5 to 7 percent of employees avail themselves of this mental health treatment plan option, according to Australia market research by IBISWorld.

Why is this so?

Research indicates that employees are reluctant to elect this option due to the overall distrust of management and the health system, whom they fear may use this information against them. They feel that asking for help may affect their job viability and stability and also may keep them trapped in the mental health care system.

Mental health issues generally arise from a combination of factors, including genetic makeup, psychological issues, social issues and environmental issues. All of these factors impact the human psyche and can lead to physical, mental and emotional stress. This stress can set off long-term mental health issues if not dealt with in a timely manner. One of the biggest impacts on an individual is loss of self-confidence in any number of functions and abilities, which then leads the person to distrust his or her own ability, confidence, stability, resilience, positivity, and many other elements of a happy and well-adjusted person. The person then starts to decline in energy and positivity, which can lead to disengagement.

How should an organization engage employees and change language, culture and energy to encourage loyalty?

A first suggestion is to look at basic psychological needs to assess where there might be glaring problems or a mismatch in satisfying those needs. At the most fundamental level, the organization should provide a safe workplace that provides and enhances psychological well-being. Next, it should provide a stable environment with policies and procedures that follow legal and social equity requirements. To that end, the organization must provide a working environment that is supportive of employees’ needs – one that emphasizes training and development. The organization should encourage workers to develop their strengths and enable them to accelerate their advancement within an environment of inclusiveness and open communication. Moreover, management should be open to inclusive decision-making processes so staff members feel they are truly part of the organization.

Organizations must address the underlying problem of stress.

Because stress is so rampant within organizations, organizations should adopt wellness as a value, and leaders must demonstrate to employees that they care and that, gradually, they will help everyone manage stress together. Together, then, everyone can take the responsibility to move to a position of wellness. Necessarily, this process will start with adopting a solutions approach and encouraging everyone to talk about finding paths to wellness, rather than concentrating on the negatives and the expressions of what’s “lacking.”

By focusing on wellness, and by working together to tackle stress as the root cause of mental health issues, organizations can take a step toward a workplace where inclusiveness is the norm and workers feel secure, motivated and inspired. This environment leads to increased loyalty from employees, your most valuable asset!