Meaningful Work Relationships Can Improve Employee Mental Health

Employee Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 300 million people worldwide who suffer from depression and anxiety. One of their recent studies also revealed that depression and anxiety are the leading causes of disability and they cost the global economy about $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

While outstanding organizational efforts have been made to reduce stigma and support mental health needs, a recent Forbes article, written by Paul Coyne DNP, RN, and Michael Wang, MSN, RN, points out that there is still a collective barrier that prevents us from fully activating our “caring instinct” at work. Breaking this barrier is the key to improving employee mental health.

Meaningful Work Relationships

Many of us have accepted superficial work relationships as the norm, and as stated by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford, “we are increasingly ‘working alone.’” Research shows that the number of those with meaningful work relationships has drastically declined since the 1980s. A trend that is greatly affecting our mental health.

When it comes down to it, the workplace is made up of human beings, and human beings have a natural desire to be cared for. Research shows that employees are not only happier when they have meaningful work relationships, but it also makes their job more satisfying. In addition, a Gallup study found employees who reported having a best friend at work were 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development and 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day. Further research shows that teams of friends outperform teams of acquaintances in both decision making and effort tasks.

How To Build Meaningful Relationships

In the best workplaces, employers recognize that employees need to create quality relationships with their coworkers, and that company allegiance can be built from such relationships. However, while developing trusting relationships is a significant emotional compensation for employees, it is not something that can be forced. Coyne and Wang explain that workshops and events might be an employer’s first thought when trying to help facilitate work relationships, but forced fun is not the answer. They give the following tips instead:

  1. Be Sincere: Ask employees how they are really doing. Encourage everyone to ask others how they are doing as well and encourage honest answers.
  2. Be Personable: Ask what people what they did over the weekend, what their upcoming plans are, ask questions about their family, etc. Getting to know one another on a personal level builds trust and strengthens bonds.
  3. Be Genuine: Show that you genuinely care by noticing achievements and milestones in other’s lives and give personal, face to face recognition for their achievements.
  4. Be Authentic: When everyone is their true selves at work, everyone is happier, more comfortable, and more open to meaningful relationships.

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