“Can I change…” was the most searched term in 2022, according to Google Trends, and it’s no wonder. The last two years have seen the Great Resignation, the Great Regret, quiet quitting, quiet hiring, hybrid work, remote work, and everything in between. This search trend is enough to keep leaders and their human resources executives up at night.
Change can be positive, and disruption may be good cause for an employee to reevaluate their circumstances. But what if that disruption affects their intrinsic motivation, not to mention their mental well-being? I’m looking forward to my Off the Rak conversation with doctors Neill Epperson and Matt Mishkind on May 25 when we talk about mental health in the workplace.
In the meantime, a study by Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion reveals that 61 percent of employees downplay their differences at work, including mental health issues they might be facing. Efforts like the partnership between Society for Human Resource Management and Thrive Global are working with companies to recognize that while change is ever present, the commitment to mental health is not.
Within the first week of launching this mental-health pledge challenge, top CEOs and chief human resources officers signed the pledge. “The reason we’re seeing this kind of response is because these leaders see the impact on the business,” says Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global’s founder and CEO.
Huffington also underscores the importance of leaders addressing their own mental health and level of burnout. She explains that, understandably, we spend a great deal of time thinking about the rank and file employees who bear the brunt of the work, but CEOs and leaders experience burnout too.
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If leaders should model behavior, we need to give them permission to address it. Sure, “hard work is unavoidable,” says Huffington, “and we actually love it when we’re engaged in what we’re doing, but it’s not about hard work; it’s about work that is not smart because of diminishing returns. … Look at elite athletes; they recognize there is a real connection between peak performance and giving yourself time for recovery.”
Leaders have to start by asking themselves how they’re doing. How many hours a day and how many days a week are they working? Then they have to look around and ask the same of their direct reports. Is everyone doing their best work, or are they dialing it in without any level of creativity or intentionality? Without recovery time, we can’t realistically expect people to reach peak performance day in and day out.
According to forecasts by global experts contributing to the Prediction Consensus, work cultures will continue to bend toward flexibility, which means we must embrace the whole employee who blends work and life to engage fully in their job. We can no longer ask professionals to compartmentalize if we want their best work. The future of leading flexible cultures depends on recognizing that our own performance as leaders is enhanced if we model sustainable practices that celebrate the idea that wellness is good for business.