May 11, 2022
3 Ways to Include Employee Mental Health as Part of Your ESG Program
8 Min Read
ESG programs are shaping the world that we live in and the business that we do: according to a McKinsey study, global sustainable investment has surpassed $30 trillion. The social element of ESG, or social impact, is becoming an increasingly important consideration for investors, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating these trends. How a company manages its relationships with its stakeholders – employees, partners, communities, and governments – can have a significant impact on financial performance. This is one reason why businesses are prioritizing employee mental health considerations as part of workplace benefits and ESG programs.
Read the IDC Topline Report: Trust for Sustainable Business
What is Mental Health Awareness Month? How does it apply to the workplace?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the 2022 theme is “Together for Mental Health.” Providing a time to raise awareness about mental health, it is also an opportunity to advocate for access to care and ways to achieve mental well-being. When it comes to the workplace, mental health benefits haven’t always been on the list, but that’s beginning to change. It’s taken time, but employers increasingly understand that supporting employee health doesn’t just mean workplace health and safety or helping an employee with a broken leg. Health also includes mental well-being, and employers have a responsibility to help mitigate burnout and stress.
How has COVID-19 affected employee mental health?
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on mental well-being around the world. Job losses, new remote work arrangements, homeschooling children, and more have taken their toll. According to a global study of 2000 employees, nearly 42% reported a decline in mental health since the pandemic started. While nearly two-thirds said they had higher levels of stress. But employers that stay attuned to their employees’ mental well-being can make a real difference. On the other hand, employees who said their manager was not attuned to their well-being were 69% more likely to say their mental health had declined.
What are the benefits of prioritizing employee mental health?
Organizations that prioritize well-being see benefits beyond happy employees and more eager investors. They see an increase in productivity and efficiency, as well as a drop in costs associated with mental health conditions. A study in The Lancet demonstrated that for every $1 invested in evidence-based mental health programs, employers typically save between $2-4 on other expenses.
If the desire to do right by people and reduce costs isn’t enough of a motivator, then organizations should also consider the costs of not implementing a mental health strategy in their ESG program. The negative impacts can include:
- Reduced productivity
- Increased sickness and absenteeism
- Potential legal costs from disputes
- Poor workplace culture and reputation internally and externally
- Lower employee engagement, shorter tenure, and increased resignations
- Higher recruitment costs
- Inferior customer service
The benefits of prioritizing well-being are clear, so the next step is looking at how it can be part of your ESG program.
1. Reflect on the workplace culture your organization has cultivated
Your workplace culture plays a big role in supporting the mental well-being across an organization. It can also provide a solid foundation for a fulfilling work-life. Here’s a few tips for cultivating a supportive environment:
- Create an inclusive environment: Promote and celebrate diversity and the innovation that it sparks.
- Employee recognition: Work to ensure employees feel appreciated and that their efforts matter.
- Promote a speak-up culture: Build trust across your organization by allowing people to speak-up and raise concerns around wrong-doing without fear of retaliation.
- Make well-being resources available: An employee assistance program (EAP) typically offers free and confidential resources, counseling, referrals, etc. to employees who have either personal or work-related issues. Make sure employees are aware of the resources by proactively communicating the EAP benefits to them.
- Equip managers: An EAP is a great resource to support mental health in the workplace, but managers are often the first point of contact for employees. Ensure managers have the appropriate training and resources to handle issues in real time.
2. Consider the physical environment
Mental well-being and the physical environment can be closely entwined, but data on the relationship between the two is scarce. However, recognizing the nuanced relationship between a physical workplace and overall well-being is key to shaping an organization’s social impact strategy. While flexible working has seen an increase in focus over the past few years, a physical office is still a vital tool for offering employees a choice in finding an optimal work environment to suit their needs, whether that be a full-time office presence, hybrid working, or occasional visits.
By understanding how physical workspaces can contribute to improved well-being through thoughtful design, organizations can leverage another opportunity to support employee flourishing. But what makes a good work environment? It’s a cumulative effect of different design aspects, whether it’s water quality and availability, or embedded access for those with disabilities, or ergonomic workstations, and employers have a responsibility to create a space that considers and promotes employee well-being.
There are various certifications available that demonstrate the changing attitude around well-being and the workplace. For example, the WELL Building Standard is a framework for measuring, analyzing, certifying, and reporting on features of a built environment that affect employee health and well-being. As standards like these become more widely recognized, they will help bolster well-being in the workplace, particularly as organizations look for ways to embed excellence in wellness as a competitive differentiator.
3. Work toward standardized mental health and well-being metrics
Why does the S in ESG often get overlooked? According to the BNP Paribas’ report, The ESG Global Survey 2021: “Data is more difficult to come by and there is an acute lack of standardization around social metrics.” Well-being-focused data within ESG reporting frameworks typically focus on incidents around injury and illness, rather than mental health and overall well-being. For instance, the SASB and GRI standards still only include the former as they were designed around a conventional understanding of illness and injury prevention. These ESG disclosure standards require organizations to report on occupational health and safety management systems and the number and rate of work-related injuries, rather than a more holistic focus on well-being. This means that the data is insufficient to capture the genuine impact of an organization’s well-being program on the employee experience. So, by creating standardized well-being metrics and building them into your ESG frameworks, your organization can measure, analyze, and respond to social issues across the business. Also, you’ll be able to benchmark and track progress on how your organization is supporting employee mental health.
What does this look like at OneTrust?
As OneTrust has grown, we’ve taken steps to cultivate an environment that supports mental, physical and emotional well-being, to help employees succeed both in and out of the office. To bring this to life, OneTrust offers a range of support, including:
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): With a wealth of resources and services available, employees have support on hand when going through a period of change, or stressful situation.
- Workplace flexibility: In many roles there is the flexibility to work in one of OneTrust’s 13 global locations, at home, or a combination of the two, employees can make choices about how they work.
- Unlimited PTO: Employees can take the time that they need to feel fulfilled both in an out of work – a work-life balance isn’t about being split 50/50 all the time, it’s about being present and engaged when it matters.
- Employee recognition: By celebrating employees’ accomplishments together, OneTrust creates a culture where people feel appreciated. Employees are invited to attend employee appreciation social events, participate in ticket giveaways, and celebrate one another through shout outs.
- DE&I Council: By launching a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion council, OneTrust provides employees with another opportunity to drive employee-led change. The council has already helped launch unconscious bias training across the organization, a community grant program, and multiple employee trust groups (ETGs) to ensure communities at OneTrust have their voices heard.
- Career development: Working at a category-defining company provides employees with the opportunity to work at the forefront of a new industry, but on top of that OneTrust helps employees become experts in the field. OneTrust’s learning & development program pays for leading industry certifications for every single team member.
The collective impact of these well-being resources allows employees to build fulfilling careers while taking care of their mental and physical well-being. It’s one reason why OneTrust is an award-winning workplace and has been recognized as a Great Place to Work.
Well-being in the workplace is changing
Over the past few years there has been a shift in expectations, with employers now considered more responsible for employee well-being. The days of glamorizing overwork and burnout are gone. Today organizations need to prioritize well-being to attract and retain talented employees, cultivate investment, and demonstrate to communities that they belong in the ecosystem. Ultimately, they need to demonstrate an authentic commitment to their values in order to build trust across stakeholder groups. To do this, organizations need to offer well-rounded support and opportunities for their employees and communities.
A sustainable business model must be built around trust.
To learn more about the value and importance of trust download the IDC report on Trust for Sustainable Business.