The Role of Mental Health in Corporate Culture

The ubiquity of smart technology and information technology has made work-life balance more attainable than ever in the United States workforce. Telecommuting has made it possible for single parents to work while also caring for their children, and for single individuals to pursue personal passions while maintaining a sustainable living. However, this blurring of the lines between work and life have also brought work stress closer to home for millions of Americans, severely impacting their mental health.

The conversation surrounding work-life balance and its effects on mental health has developed significantly over the last ten years. Leadership in major corporations have become more aware of how their corporate culture not only effects their workforce, but also their brand, productivity, and their stock holders. The Health and Safety Executive published national statistics declaring that 28.8 million work days were lost in 2018 due to both physical and mental health reasons. While physical helath of employees has always been one of the priorities for major corporations, mental health has only recently come to the forefront of corporate priorities. In an article by Sarah Chilton published by Forbes at the beginning of January, Chilton said, “In some sectors there are cultural issues which are likely to exacerbate the problems, or make it harder to openly discuss mental well-being. In particular, high pressure environments, or night shift work for example, can contribute to mental health issues. My own sector, the legal sector, with its highly pressurized and competitive environment where there is a long hours and heavy workload culture, can significantly affect mental wellbeing, but also the willingness of employees and business owners to discuss it openly.”

This connectivity that Chilton mentions comes in the form of platforms like Slack, Monday.com, and other telecommuting tools that can be huge assets to corporate communication and productivity. These platforms can connect employees located around the countries, for a seemingly more holistic approach to corporate success. When your work is well-connected to the devices we use in our personal lives, such as our phones, our laptop computers, and home-based artificial intelligence like Alexa and Google Home devices, a bleeding source of stress is introduced that can further disrupt our desire for a work-life balance.

Regardless of an employee’s physical location within the organization, many corporations are beginning to adopt work ratios that have been proven to reduce this bleed, such as the 25:5 rule. That means a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of work completed. This can come in many forms, such as walking meetings, meal breaks—anything that would stimulate an employee physically in order to refocus their minds on their work once they return from that break. This also reduces the physical impact of jobs that force employees to sit for long periods of time, which has devastating effects on posture, eye-strain, and lack of circulation in lower extremities that contribute to health problems such as blood clots and diabetes.

When corporations invest in the mental health of their employees, the positive ripple effects may surprise even the most seasoned executive. Corporate culture moves in a cycle. When employees feel that their mental health is valued at their place of work, their level of engagement is higher in their capacity. This leads to a better quality of communication between employees and stronger engagement on behalf of individuals, which promotes productivity. This increased productivity not only pleases leadership, but also improves the quality of customer service within the organization, which also has the potential to impress and reassure shareholders.