Why investing in organizational culture outperforms self-care apps

Report suggests employers need to go back to basics

Why investing in organizational culture outperforms self-care apps

A new report finds that investing in organizational culture outperforms therapy services and self-care apps when it comes to employee mental health and well-being. Historically, employers have taken an individual approach to mental health, providing therapy, apps, and time off. But that's not what employees find most helpful, says the ‘2023 Mental Health at Work Report’ from Mind Share Partners in partnership with Qualtrics. In fact, 78 percent of employees say an emphasis on healthy and sustainable workplaces would be moderately to extremely helpful.

Mental health is a mixed picture in the workplace post-pandemic. Thirty-nine percent of workers cite personal finances and 23 percent cite work as their biggest stressors. In addition, from prior studies in 2019 and 2021, mental health symptoms spiked and workers' overall views of their mental health declined. This year, the report notes a 20 percent decline in those reporting any symptoms – a positive trend – but their views of their own mental health continued to decline.

"The state of workplace mental health has changed substantially over the past few years – largely for the better," says Kelly Greenwood, founder and CEO of Mind Share Partners. "Many employers have begun to take mental health at work seriously, and their efforts are producing noticeable results. That said, mental health broadly is not improving. Economic uncertainty and workplace factors – unsustainable workloads, a lack of a supportive community, and systemic inequalities – are leading to employees languishing in their jobs. This is where organizational culture change is needed."

Support improves engagement

The report also says investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are improving mental health. From prior biennial reports, it was observed that women, Gen Z, Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ employees tend to have worse mental health outcomes than their colleagues. Today, of those who say their employer supported their identity, more were engaged and committed to their employer and had better mental health outcomes compared to those who didn't feel supported.

When it comes to the hybrid work debate, employee voice matters. Respondents were asked if they were working in-person, hybrid, or remotely, and also asked the level of input they had in choosing. No one way of working was found to be better for worker mental health than the rest. One interesting theme emerged within hybrid workers – those with some level of control and influence over where they work tended to experience better outcomes when it comes to mental health, engagement, and work itself.

"Employers need to go back to the basics," says Bernie Wong, principal at Mind Share Partners and lead for the organization's biennial reports. "This means livable wages, true balance between work and life, a sense of belonging, and sustainable ways of working. There will be no technological revolution, no productized panacea, and certainly no renaissance of mental wellbeing if the voices and livelihoods of workers aren't fundamentally at the centre of our cultures and systems. A mentally healthy future is possible, and we all can play a role."

The report surveyed 1,500 US workers from June 2 - August 11, 2023, and includes a statistically significant sampling of women, people of colour, caregivers, all generations, and LGBTQ+ workers, including transgender workers as a subcategory.