When we talk about achieving success in the workplace, conversations often veer toward skills, innovation, and performance metrics. While these factors are undoubtedly important, they don’t tell the whole story. There is something else less tangible but just as critical: mental health.

The reality is that many people spend a large part of their lives at work. While not all mental health issues are related to work, mental health is everyone’s responsibility—and employers need to do their part. As we kick off Mental Health Awareness Week here in Aotearoa New Zealand, let’s break down why the collective and individual mental health of your people is key for creating a resilient, innovative, and customer-focused, and ultimately successful, organisation.

1. A drained team can't uphold your mission

It's hard to sustain a positive work culture when your team is emotionally and mentally worn out. As a useful analogy, imagine a car; it may look sleek and stunning, and have all the latest features;  a Surround View Camera System, and drowsiness-detectors, but—without fuel, it won't get very far. The same principle holds for your people. If they're running on empty, emotionally and mentally, not only will they be struggling themselves, but they certainly can't be a positive influence within your organisation, let alone champion its mission and goals.

Poor mental health leads to lower engagement, and extrapolated to its worst state, contributes to fostering a toxic work environment. This can become a vicious cycle that further erodes mental well-being. Ignoring mental health warning signs will lead not only to high attrition rates but also to a palpable negative shift in your organisational culture.

To keep things on track, regularly check in with your team, make sure you are listening to their needs. Keep team resourcing and workloads at the appropriate levels.  In this post COVID world, flexibility is highly desirable, so offer flexible work conditions if you can. Provide access to mental health support; there’s a range of great EAP programmes out there.

2. Innovation and creativity thrive on stability

Now let's talk about the bedrock of every future-proofed organisation: innovation. Most organisations say they want to innovate, but how many create an environment that allows for it? One of the foundational pillars for an innovative culture is the mental health and resilience of your staff.

When employees are secure in their well-being, they have the emotional and mental space to think creatively, take calculated risks, and bring novel solutions to the table. In contrast a stressed, anxious workforce is more likely to stick with the status quo because they simply don't have the bandwidth to explore and dream.

As an organisational leader, it’s your job to do what you can to support positive mental health. Start by ensuring you understand the common stressors in your business, so that they can be alleviated or mitigated. Invest in mental well-being coaching programs, team-building systems and activities. While of course there are factors outside of your control, if you do your part as a leader, you are helping to build and support a workplace culture where innovation thrives.

3. Your Customer Experience suffers, too

Let's not forget the people who your business ultimately serves: your customers. The mental well-being of your staff has a direct and often immediate impact on customer experience. If your employees are not well-taken care of, they can't go the extra mile in delivering a memorable customer experience.

And let’s not ignore the ripple effect of high staff turnover on customer satisfaction. The energy and resources spent on constant recruitment and training are energies not spent on improving customer service. Moreover, the inconsistency in staff can lead to an inconsistent customer experience, which is a surefire way to lose customer loyalty.

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Here's the bottom line: as a leader, you have a profound responsibility for your people. This is a moral issue, but also potentially a legal one. (We recently wrote about the growing legal duties placed on employers overseas, that we could soon see here in Aotearoa). This responsibility goes beyond ensuring that workloads are manageable, and goals are well-defined. It also involves doing what you can to maintain the mental health of your people; fostering a positive team culture, backed by actionable development plans and adequate resources.

Given it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, now is a fantastic opportunity to review your culture, and take stock of the mental health of the people in your organisation Take this time to celebrate what you're doing well, and don't shy away from launching new initiatives where gaps exist. Start a conversation, conduct a survey, or even bring in experts to help your organisation. In doing so, you not only enhance the lives of your employees but also set your organisation on a path to long-term success and customer satisfaction.

Are you a business owner or leader looking to work on building a positive work culture? We are available for support and advice. You can call us on +64 9 300 7224 or email us at hello@thepeopleplace.