Workforce mental health can predict business success

Workforce mental health can predict business success


Workforce shortages are hitting businesses of all sizes hard, and there’s now even more pressure for employers to look closely at their staff’s wellbeing if they want to hold on to the employees they have.

Although employee satisfaction can’t be measured using a KPI like other business indicators, it is reflected in workforce retention and productivity.

To find and retain talent, business leaders must now understand the importance of balancing the two competing factors: mental health and business growth.

Stuart Taylor, CEO and founder of Springfox, which works with companies to improve workforce resilience, says the past few years have seen a deterioration in wellbeing and mental health due to the pandemic.

“My experience is that we have seen to some degree a deterioration [in resilience and mental health] but a lot of that happened right at the start of the pandemic when so much was going on and so much was unexpected,” he says.

“It was very much a rabbit-in-the-headlight situation and it was a real challenge about what we could see beyond that.”

However, Springfox, and its global research arm the Resilience Institute, also finds that despite the challenges they have faced over the past two years, mental health actually increased to a degree.

“There was a dip in mental health at the beginning but we found that when faced with a challenge, and especially if training had been put in place to help people, staff became adept at coping. It is the human capacity to do so,” Mr Taylor says.

Mr Taylor speaks from experience when it comes to building resilience and looking after mental health.

Twenty years ago, he worked in a highly demanding corporate role, neglecting his mental and physical health due to the pressure of the job, when he found himself on the brink of burnout and diagnosed with a grade three brain tumour.

He was given less than two years to live and made the decision to make some radical changes to his life, quitting his job and prioritising his mental and physical health.

His work with Springfox and the Resilience Institute has given him an insight into how businesses can better support their workers and still meet their business KPIs.

“Mental health is more than stopping mental illness,” he says. “Mental wellbeing is more than just surviving, it’s about how to put things into action as challenges come into play and this is where organisations should be at the forefront – they can determine where a worker’s strengths are and how they can put them into action.”

Mr Taylor says leaders that operate with compassion are more likely to build a thriving business.

“An individual doesn’t change from being sensational to terrible overnight. It’s not a human behaviour that typically occurs.

“If a leader understands a staff member may have gone through some challenges and has empathy to care for their staff, they will have more success. To build a successful organisation you have to help people to get the skills they need to move forward and get back to their strength.”

Springfox has been measuring the impact of mental health on business KPIs for about eight years, looking at both the mental health of individuals and groups.

“We measure a resilience ratio and we know that it is very psychometrically accurate in terms of reliability,” he says. “We can very quickly get a sense if a place is thriving or just surviving. Thriving is when individuals or groups reach peak performance – and that is not about being at your best all the time but also knowing when you need to recover.”

Mr Taylor says the mindset of leaders and staff needs to shift to accommodate this concept.

“This is not about saying ‘Can I make this or do this task really well’, it’s about adjusting to the world and navigating your way through to an outcome.

“It’s a more agile approach to the changes in the world at present. It’s not about survival but being calm, curious, and vulnerable – being at my best and growing because that is the place that people actually learn.”

Many businesses, Mr Taylor says, reject this philosophy although the number is decreasing.

“It’s OK not to be perfect because resilience and mental health rely on the presumption of imperfection.

“In the world of accounting, the world has to be perfect to get all the numbers right, but that is the opposite of what it takes to be a happy person. I’m not suggesting accountants get the numbers wrong but a level of perspective is needed and a realisation that as a professional you can correct mistakes.

“The same principles apply to all workers. If they are well rested, positive, optimistic, and allowed to be creative with their skills, they will be productive and mentally healthy.”

With the move to more staff working from home, Mr Taylor says it is imperative that business leaders look at how they integrate the qualities of empathy, compassion and trust into the remote workplace.

“The combination of these three attributes can predict business performance.

“If leaders aren’t displaying trust and compassion it’s more likely the staff will be operating with paranoia, which does not lend itself to a thriving organisation.

“We are definitely seeing that business success is more about nurturing these three elements and it can be an indicator of future business performance.”

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