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10 Oct 2022
by Jennifer Gendron

4 ways to support employees' mental wellbeing as they make lifestyle changes

From quitting smoking to exercising more, it can be hard to make changes stick without support from the people around us

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Change, even for the better, can feel overwhelming. Even though making positive lifestyle changes (ie, moving more, drinking less alcohol) has a statistically significant long-term positive impact, in the short-term, they can be a source of stress and anxious thoughts

We know that quitting smoking or getting our finances in better order will make our lives better in time. But in the moment, letting go of habits that, however unhealthy, have been a source of comfort can be a hard pill to swallow. Knowing that we’ll be better off eventually is not always sufficient motivation.

And unfortunately, sometimes, our working environment and colleagues can make this process even more complicated. The habits we want to change can be tangled in how we socialise and behave with people at work. There is no mental health without physical health (or vice versa), and both are deeply impacted by the relative health of our environment. This is why lifestyle change is most effective when it’s supported by cognitive or mental work and the surrounding environment.

How can companies support employees’ mental wellbeing and positive lifestyle change?

1. Create a culture that prioritises employee wellbeing

When a company culture prizes and protects employee wellbeing (mental and physical), it is easier for employees to take action to care for their mental and physical health without fear of negative consequences.

Psychological safety at work enables workers to be more open. In this sort of workplace, employees feel they can share their doubts, fears, struggles and also their goals and plans to change for the better.

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2. Build a better working environment

After culture, whether your company is remote, in-person, or somewhere in the middle, the working environment may impact your staff’s wellbeing and ability to pursue positive lifestyle changes the most.

Whether that environment is online or in a physical location, it should be centred on creating a space that fosters employee wellbeing. Office space should cater to employees’ diverse needs whenever possible while facilitating healthy behaviour. Healthy snacks and drinks are an excellent offering that aligns well with healthy lifestyle goals, outdoor space to get some fresh air and a place to store bikes for employees who cycle to work.

On the other hand, online spaces can be set up to snooze messages after an employee has been online for a certain number of hours (to discourage overworking) or even disable access to certain tools while people are on vacation.

And all types of office environments would be improved by the addition of digital-first tools that employees can use to support their mental wellbeing, wherever, and whenever needed.

3. Be the change you’d like to see

If you’d like to see your team live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle, lead by example. Employees watch leadership closely. If managers and the C-suite are putting work before their mental health and wellbeing, many workers will likely see it as an unspoken expectation that they do so as well. Business leaders have a unique opportunity to gently influence change for good just by taking care of themselves.

4. Be transparent about the challenges of change

Don’t just model positive lifestyle change, be open and honest about how finding some semblance of work-life balance is an ongoing challenge, a choice you try to make to take care of yourself.

Also want be forthcoming about the times you’ve missed the mark and had to start again. Try to help your team focus on change as a process, not a result. This perspective can help reduce any pressure people may feel to reach milestones and help them focus on progress (however slow) and celebrate wins (however small).

To find out more about mental wellbeing and the mental health myths that may be affecting your organisation, download our free report, Workplace Mental Health: Myths and Stigmas.

In partnership with Koa Health

At Koa Health, we believe digital mental health solutions are the answer to mental health issues.

Contact us today