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Mental Health: The Impact of Effective Workplace Leadership

By Kristin Barrett - Collective Academy
COO and Director of Enterprise Learning


By Kristin Barrett | COO and Director of Enterprise Learning - Fri, 11/10/2023 - 11:00

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The discussion about mental health and work takes on new meaning when we put numbers to the emotional state of workers worldwide. At Collective, we recently hosted a Master Class Series in collaboration with Terapify (you can watch the first session here), which brought to our attention a worrisome situation that, at the same time, offers many opportunities for the corporate sector to recognize and improve its role in relation to people's mental health. 

This is the right thing to do, as it can also have an impact on productivity and business results.

First, we need to measure what poor mental health among workers is costing the global economy. According to the World Health Organization, 12 billion workdays are lost each year worldwide due to depression and anxiety. This equates to $1 trillion in lost productivity per year.

So what are the main factors that negatively impact employees? The Workforce Institute at UKG surveyed 3,400 people in 10 countries, and 60% of workers said their workplace was the biggest factor affecting their mental health. And 15% of them answered "my boss" when asked ”what or who causes you the most work-related stress.”

One of the researchers' most important discoveries was the outsized role that leaders play in the mental health of their teams: Managers have as much influence on employees’ mental health as their spouse (both 69%) and even more than their doctor (51%) or therapist (41%).

New generations are particularly aware of the importance of emotional well-being in the workplace. In fact, 81% of today's workers would prefer good mental health to a well-paying job. This fact presents a new and exciting challenge for HR in terms of attracting and retaining talent. 

We now know that it's not enough to offer great economic benefits to current and new employees. They demand more, and that includes a better work-life balance and a culture where they feel safe, but overall, they need conscious leaders.

Through our Master in Business &  Technology and corporate programs, we work every day to guide leaders across industries to develop critical skills, such as assertive communication, building high-performing teams, self-awareness and self-regulation, and effective feedback. As a result, we have seen the impact of great leadership on team satisfaction and business performance.

Here are some things we have learned over the years and during our Emotional Wellness Master Class Series that can help organizations improve the mental health of their employees:

  • There must be an organizational consensus on emotional well-being.

Before taking action to improve the mental health of employees, the organization's leadership team must be aligned on the following issues:

  • What does mental health mean to us?

  • How do we want our employees to feel when they work for us?

  • Why is it important for us to invest in emotional well-being?

  • What resources do we have and what resources do we lack?

  • How will we measure the impact of our efforts?

  • What are our goals?

  • Mental health programs are worth it.

Because it is difficult to measure the impact of mental health programs, for many areas of HR it is difficult to convince financiers to invest in them. It is recommended to take a step-by-step approach. You can start by testing a training program for management teams, implementing a mental health day, or holding a wellness contest among teams.

Then, measure employee satisfaction or review the overall results of their work. Gradually, you will have results to show.

Although companies play an important role in preventing stress and burnout, personal responsibility is crucial: people need to be their own leaders. That means prioritizing their well-being through daily self-care measures, setting healthy boundaries, and taking responsibility for creating a corporate culture that promotes balance.

  • Vulnerability transforms relationships.

We need to change the mindset of vulnerability = weakness. On the contrary, having enough courage to share with others how we feel in a respectful and conscious way should be applauded in the workplace. This is the first step toward transparent communication between members of a team and the only way to initiate change. 

The best way to establish vulnerability in corporate culture is to model it. When leaders (who, by the way, may be the most stressed members of the organization) are vulnerable with their colleagues and employees, the message will spread.

If an employee tells their supervisor how stressed they are, there is a greater chance of preventing more serious situations like burnout.

  • Turn the boss into a coach.

Our leaders play a fundamental role in our emotional well-being because we spend the majority of our time at work, and the relationship we build with our leaders has evolved. We are increasingly looking for mentors, advisers and coaches more than bosses.

Hiring and developing leaders with important soft skills, such as self-awareness and self-regulation, is key to improving mental health. After all, they are the first responders to the well-being of their teams.


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Photo by:   Kristin Barrett

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