Future of Work

5 steps to build emotional resilience at work

For every dollar invested in employee wellbeing, $4 is earned back in employee retention and productivity. Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Alyaa AlMulla
Head, National Happiness Strategy and Policy, Office of the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates
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Future of Work

Most of the world’s population spends at least a third of their adult life at work. And if you’re anything like most people, you likely have a litany of complaints about your job. In fact, you might even say that your job makes you unhappy.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is one of the leading causes of disability globally and results in economic losses equaling about 2% of GDP in many countries.

With workplace environments contributing to stress, anxiety and burn-out in employees, it is clear that employers must engage in new efforts to cultivate positive and healthy workplaces.

Businesses such as Google, Zappos, HP and Draper are leading the way in this area, and are now considered the gold standards for positive and healthy workplace cultures. But there’s no reason that all workplaces, large and small, can’t promote emotional resilience among their employees. Here are some of the reasons you should spread this idea at work.

1) It can save companies money in the long term

Introducing mindfulness in the workplace has been shown to decrease employees stress levels and improve resilience and work engagement, thereby enhancing overall employee wellbeing and organisational performance.

Now more than ever, cost-efficient technologies and readily adaptable policies are available to support institutions in this endeavour. For every dollar invested in employee wellbeing, the WHO says, $4 is earned back in increased employee retention and productivity. A separate study conducted by PwC in 2014 showed that programs fostering a mentally healthy workplace returned $2.30 for every dollar spent.

The financial impact of mental health conditions in Australian workplaces Image: PwC

2) It’s easy

Making moves to promote emotional resilience doesn’t have to involve a costly, lengthy process. Mobile apps, webinars, and short training sessions can introduce key ideas to employees.

Some of the best ways to boost employees’ mental health – like encouraging them to get enough sleep, regular exercise, exposure to nature, and take breaks throughout the workday – are essentially free from the employer’s perspective. Others – such as increasing vacation time, or providing mindfulness and compassion training – require just a small upfront investment.

3) The United Nations encourages it

The UN has prioritised mental health as the third of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at promoting healthy lives and wellbeing. Some countries have already established action plans to achieve that goal.

Bhutan, for instance, has introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) to measure prosperity, integrating factors like environmental health and mental and physical wellbeing intro traditional GDP metrics.

And the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has instituted happiness as a pillar of government policymaking. In 2016, the UAE launched its National Program for Happiness and Positivity and appointed a Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing, who is mandated to foster happiness, positivity and wellbeing while ensuring that these principles remain at the core of government work.

Since then, the UAE programme has launched the world’s first Happiness Policy Manual and Assessment Tool for government officials, conducted the first National Survey on Happiness and Positivity, and developed a Manual for Happiness and Wellbeing in the Workplace.

4) It can help reduce mental health stigma

Mental health remains deeply stigmatised and removed from the public discourse in many parts of the world, making people reluctant to speak about mental health issues and often amplifying their problems.

By championing mental wellbeing, speaking publicly about the mental health challenges many employees face, and giving employees readily accessible support and resources, employers can help encourage openness and transparency when it comes to conversations about mental health.

5) It empowers employees

Asserting emotional resilience as an institutional priority and working to cultivate it empowers people at all levels to take control of their mental wellbeing, while acting as a bulwark against potential decline.

Emotionally resilient and mentally healthy employees in turn have a positive impact on the organisations to which they belong. Wellbeing fosters productivity at work and drives innovation, and institutions and governments alike would be well-served in giving the matter the long overdue time and attention it deserves.

The UAE will host the Global Dialogue for Happiness in February 2018 as part of the World Government Summit.

This article is part of a series by the Global Future Council on Neurotechnologies and Brain Sciences on mental health.

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