Workplace wellbeing initiatives: Ideas that can boost employee mental health in 2023

All of your employees deserve to be happy and healthy. Given that we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, our workplaces play a huge role in our physical and mental health. 

As well as the duty of care that employees have to support their employees, there are numerous business benefits. Employees with good mental health are more likely to be engaged, focused, and efficient in their work, leading to higher productivity levels. Mentally healthy employees are more likely to make sound decisions, as they can think more clearly and effectively, benefiting the organization as a whole. Fostering mental wellbeing contributes to a more positive and supportive work culture, which in turn benefits all employees and promotes teamwork, collaboration, and innovation. Mentally healthy employees are more likely to think creatively and contribute innovative ideas to the company, driving growth and success.

By focusing on employee mental health, employers contribute to the overall wellbeing of their workforce, which can have a positive ripple effect on employees’ personal lives, families, and communities. So how can employers contribute to this? Let’s explore a few initiatives that can help.

📝 All articles on Wysa are reviewed by mental healthcare professionals before publication, who check that the content is thorough and accurate, and references the latest evidence-based research. Learn more. 

13 wellbeing initiatives that can boost employee mental health

1. Flexibility with hours and location

The pandemic has given impetus to the discussions about remote work and flexible work timings. Offering employees flexibility in determining their work setting and time schedules lends them a greater sense of control and can potentially improve their well-being. Working remotely allows the employees to extricate some of the additional stressors that would otherwise populate their working day, like commuting and winnowing through the traffic. Not losing time and energy over sapping travel permits employees to integrate more enriching habits into their day, like exercising or actually making time for their hobbies. In the case of employees who are parents or guardians, they consequently get to spend more time with their children or loved ones.

In the recent years, the scholarship on the effect of work flexibility (both in terms of timing and remote/hybrid work permissibility) has increased and we’ve learnt that when employees are given the option to work from home and are given greater control over work timings, it can significantly reduce burnout, depressive symptoms, stress and emotional exhaustion. Flexible workers are also more likely to report greater overall job satisfaction. So, when thinking through the ways in which you can improve the overall well-being of your employees, interventions focused on remote/hybrid work opportunities and providing work time control could be a valuable first step. 

2. Job crafting 

One of the things employers and managers can keep in mind when designing an intervention for improving employee mental health is the concept of “job crafting.” Slemp, et al. articulate job crafting as “the ways in which employees take an active role in initiating physical or cognitive changes to the way in which they approach their work.” Here, to a larger extent, the agency rests with the employees. You can mold your ways of approaching your work in order to connect it with your individual needs and desires.

The concept of job crafting has been further broken down into three parts:

1) Task crafting, which is essentially the number and type of tasks you complete during the course of your work time. Here, you can integrate tasks or assignments that are in the realm of your personal interests and depend on already honed skills.

2) Relational crafting, which involves the social aspect of your work life, like interacting and buddying up with colleagues who share similar interests.

3) Cognitive crafting, which involves the way you view your  job. This could involve moving your attention to the effect your job and your work contribution has to the larger growth of the company.

Slemp, et al. point out that engaging with job crafting predicts the satiation of your essential, intrinsic needs and this consequently has a bearing on your well-being. This connection between job crafting and improved mental well-being can serve as a valuable insight when designing interventions for improving employee mental health, and having such input into your own job can improve overall company culture.

(SWB: Subjective well-being; PWB: Psychological well-being)

3. Mental health resources 

Not everyone is educated about mental health, or knows where to go when they are struggling. Wysa’s All Worked Up report showed that employees aren’t reaching out when they are experiencing a mental health challenge, due to stigma, perceived lack of support, or simply lack of time. Employees can provide behavioral health solutions and employee assistance programs to help people manage, maintain and move on from any mental health challenges and improve mental wellbeing. 

The challenge is that although 40% of employees would benefit from an EAP, there is only 7% take up. This shows the importance of having accessible, anonymised and safe resources that are available at the time of need, like Wysa.

4. Employee recognition, awards and incentives

Make sure that your employees know they are valued. It can be incredibly demotivating to work with no recognition, which can lead to a feeling of malaise, anxiety and even burnout. Offering regular feedback, awards and incentives such as time off, special treats or a voucher are simple ways to give back. But don’t let having perks and benefits take away from the importance of also offering a good work life balance and a supportive workplace. 

5. Team building activities

Team building activities that promote mental health at work can help create a supportive and positive work environment, strengthen relationships among colleagues, and enhance overall wellbeing. This could be specifically mental health focused such as a a retreat focused on wellbeing, incorporating activities such as yoga, nature walks, and guided relaxation sessions, or more informal, such as paintballing or a boardgame challenge.

There are so many ways to help people connect with one another, but what is clear is that people with good relationships at work are healthier and more able to tackle any challenges.

6. Send out an employee wellbeing survey

It’s essential that any wellness initiatives are designed with a particular cohort in mind – your employees. Looking at the data and feedback from employees means that a wellness strategy can be designed for them and their needs, which is likely to also result in greater employee engagement

Wysa’s free barometer survey is an anonymous survey that allows employees to share what they are struggling with through anonymous clinical screening, providing valuable feedback so that wellbeing initiatives can be implemented to help them move from stressed and worried to happier employees. 

7. Host wellbeing webinars and workshops

With so many people working remotely it’s important that wellbeing programmes include both offline and online wellness activities. Employee health focused webinars about daily struggles like stress management and coping with anxiety at work, can be a valuable educational resource to help people understand their physical and mental health.

8. Create groups with common interests

A great way to encourage employees to start focusing on their health and wellbeing is to get them to do so in groups. Numerous studies have shown that socializing can improve mental health and wellbeing, promoting a sense of safety and security, boosting cognitive function, and even reducing the risk of dementia. These could include Slack channels, lunchtime running groups or even a book club.

Mental health employee resource groups are another initiative led by employees that could bring people together to work towards a common goal.

9. Social activities 

Social activities might also include activities that are not specifically health focused, but can have an impact on overall mental wellness. Unfortunately many workplaces still focus on long hours and presenteeism. But having activities such as a virtual happy hour, in person lunches and sports teams can help people to take a break from their working day, engage with their colleagues and form workplace relationships in a fun way, and alleviate stress, thus improving overall health.

online group video call

10. Professional and personal development

One of the biggest predicators of someone leaving a job is due to a lack of personal and professional development. It’s essential to look at what an employee wants to achieve from the career and life, and help them put in place steps and plans to get there. Focusing on personal and professional development for employees can significantly improve their mental health.

By investing in skill-building and personal growth, employees feel valued and empowered, leading to increased job satisfaction and reduced stress. Professional development opportunities foster a sense of purpose and accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and confidence. This approach also encourages employees to adopt a growth mindset, helping them better cope with challenges and setbacks. By promoting a healthy work-life balance, personal development activities can help employees manage stress, improve their overall well-being, and maintain positive relationships, both in and out of the workplace. Ultimately, this investment in employee development contributes to a more engaged, and resilient workforce.

11. Physical health activities

One trend that has grown within the workplace is the walking meeting. Rather than sit at a desk, people can get together and go for walk to discuss their work. Whilst this might not traditionally be considered part of workplace wellness it can enhance overall wellbeing by helping people get fresh air, increase physical activity and form relationships with their colleagues, contributing tangentially to employee happiness.

Supporting people to take care of their own health is a great way to have a more engaged approach to employee wellness. Offer healthy foods in the kitchen, provide support for healthy eating, and integrate things such as yoga at lunchtimes to encourage people to prioritize their physical as well as mental health.

Some employee assistance programs provide discounted gym memberships, where fitness challenges can also be integrated. However it’s important to note that physical activity is and should be different for everyone, and not to make it a prerequisite, as it can fuel eating disorders or exercise addiction.

12. Meditation and mindfulness sessions 

Running regular meditation sessions at the start or end of the day can help people become more present and grounded, and feel better able to tackle some of the stress of the workplace. Studies show that a regular meditation practice can help reduce depression, anxiety and even improve pain relief. Wysa offers a number of mindfulness and meditation activities within its 150+ resources, as well as specific employer focused meditation sessions which can be done in groups and are anonymous. The benefit of using Wysa means that even those on flexible working hours can engage with it at a time that suits them, rather than to a strict timetable. The meditations can also help people sleep better, and good quality sleep is correlated with better mental wellbeing.

13. Collaborate with vendors who provide wellbeing activities 

A great way to boost your employee health activity is to bring in a community. Employers could work with local suppliers to provide healthy snacks such as fruit, regularly engage a tai chi teacher to do mindful exercise, or offer discounted personal training. You might also trust a vendor to provide employee branded products such as a water bottle to stay hydrated, or a stress ball to relieve tension.

Wysa’s employer offering is designed to be engaging, always available and is backed up with clinical evidence that shows it to be effective. It’s clear from the AWU report that more needs to be done to support employees and their mental health, and through the Wysa stepped care offering, responsible employers are able to enhance the mental health of their workforce.  

Photo by Helena Lopes

Photo by Compare Fibre

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