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21 Dec 2022
by Oliver Smith

Why you must lead by example when it comes to mental wellbeing

When leaders convey their values through their actions, and not just their words, employees notice

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Research has shown time and time again that nothing goes further with employees than leading by example.

When organisational leaders follow through and convey their values through their actions, and not just their words, employees notice. This kind of leadership transparency not only builds employee trust but has been tied to other good results such as increased productivity, decreased staff turnover and higher levels of engagement.

When leadership’s behaviours and rewards and benefits strategies align with corporate values, they also serve as a model for those in implementational roles or individuals new to the organisation.

Championing mental wellbeing at work

This is why, in a time when mental health and resilience are more important than ever, leadership must truly ‘walk the talk’ regarding employee benefits and rewards. Ultimately, an organisation’s benefits and rewards system provides strong cues to employees about what the company values.

For example, an organisation with non-existent or paltry parental leave policies reveals how it views supporting new parents. Similarly, an organisation with generous paid leave but where leaders never take time away from their desks demonstrates how it values work-life balance.

Failing to lead by example is particularly important for employee mental wellbeing and overcoming the persistent stigma of mental health treatment.

Owning up to mental wellbeing challenges and even proactively pursuing mental health maintenance is already tricky for everyone, and it’s no different for your employees.

When organisations make accessing mental wellbeing help more complicated, the chances that individuals will not only seek out, but actually get the help they need, becomes less and less likely.

However, the opposite is true, too. For example, a study of Japanese organisations found that when organisations implemented mental health measures in the workplace, it led to reduced anxiety and worry about Covid-19 among employees.

The inextricable connection between the workplace and mental health is finally getting much-needed attention, partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also as a result of emerging research that seeks to better understand this connection.

The US Surgeon General recently released a framework for supporting mental health and wellbeing at work. From an individual perspective, the timing could not be better as the demand for mental health treatment is higher than ever, particularly for common wellness challenges such as managing anxiety and depression.

So, how can organisations step in, particularly when they already offer robust care options?

Don’t forget the ‘missing middle’

Many modern organisations, as well as public health systems, already offer solutions for acute mental wellbeing care. Meaning, if someone needs to see a psychologist or pursue long-term in-person therapy, there are often routes available.

While this is an excellent foundation, it’s the bare minimum for employee mental wellbeing. Because the truth is, a large cohort of employees needs something between clinical care and general wellness services like meditation apps. At Koa Health we call this the missing middle.

This refers to the many people who fall into the subclinical zone. They may not be comfortable seeking out face-to-face care (and may not need it), even when facing burnout or workplace stress. But even on their best days they would benefit from day-in-day-out mental wellbeing care to help them learn coping and resilience skills that may protect them from needing more intense care.

While guided meditation has been shown to have positive long-term results on participant mood, a more well-rounded approach with a variety of content and activities that harness strategies from research-backed methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy is likely to appeal to more employees and therefore be more effective.

Considering that nearly eight out of 10 people frequently feel stressed at work, doing the due diligence and providing maintenance tools demonstrates from the top down that mental health and wellbeing are an organisational priority.

Further, championing mental health support that encompasses prevention and every day support as well as clinical care is one way that leadership and employers can show that the company cares about employees. Not just when they are showing acute symptoms, but also while navigating life’s ups and downs.

To find out how to make mental health more accessible at your organisation, download our free resource, Help Your People Overcome Barriers to Mental Wellness.

In partnership with Koa Health

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

Contact us today


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