Encourage employees to flourish

The business case for employee mental wellbeing: encouraging employees to flourish

Laura-Jane Booker Employee experience, Wellness 1 Comment

People tend to associate the term mental wellbeing with illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder. As a result, organisations tend to think it’s not relevant to everyone and shy away from addressing employee mental wellbeing. But what if I were to talk about stress, anxiety, and burnout? Suddenly, mental well-being becomes highly relevant because these are common work-related terms and issues that affect many employees.

The languishing-flourishing continuum

Employee mental wellbeing: the flourishing-languishing continuum


If employee mental wellbeing is a spectrum, at the positive end we have employees at their peak mental state – or flourishing. An employee who is flourishing is filled with positive emotion and functions well psychologically and socially (Keyes, 2002). Flourishers are more productive, take fewer sick days, are more resilient, and are more engaged with their work.

On the other end of the spectrum are the languishing employees. Languishing refers to the absence of positive mental wellbeing, but not necessarily the presence of mental illness. Employees who are languishing do not have positive feelings nor are they able to function well psychologically and socially.

Languishers are more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, and burnout, which we know affect many business outcomes – absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover, and job satisfaction to name a few.

So how do you ensure your employees flourish?

Risk factors preventing employees from flourishing

First, you must understand the antecedents or risk factors that can affect an employee’s mental state. There are endless contributors that differ from person to person but here are some of the most influential and widely-applicable.

Health factors

It’s important to note that health behaviors like eating, sleeping, exercising, drinking and substance abuse are all drivers of employee mental wellbeing, which is why positive behaviours should be encouraged in the workplace.

Work-specific factors

This list can be broken down into three categories: work setting, personality traits, and occupational stressors.

Work setting

Consider health and safety policies, physical hazards that may negatively impact your employees, and the environment.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do your employees have good person-organisation fit?
  • Do your employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions?
  • Is the environment both physically and psychologically safe?
  • Does the environment enable your employees to flourish?
Personality traits

Consider Type A / Type B behaviour and locus of control.

Employees with Type A personality are characterised as competitive, neurotic, ambitious, hostile and job-involved. Type A behaviour has strong links to psychological distress and burnout. It is commonly associated with coronary heart disease because Type As are more likely to have higher blood pressure. On the other hand, employees with Type B personality are characterised by a calm, reflexive, patient manner and have typically lower levels of stress and anxiety.

Locus of control is how much control people perceive they have over their lives. Your employees will have either an internal locus of control (believe they control the events and outcomes of their life) or an external locus of control (believe outside forces control the events and outcomes of their life). Employees with external locus of control are more likely to suffer from work-related stress and burnout because they perceive job stressors as beyond their control and are therefore less likely to cope with them.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Which of your employees have Type A personalities?
  • Are you supporting these people to achieve while promoting healthy behaviours?
  • Which of your employees have an external locus of control?
  • Are your policies and procedures well documented, so employees know what’s within their control and what behaviours and achievements will be rewarded or recognised?
Occupational stressors

These can be thought of in terms of resources supplied vs demands required. Resources include job control, physical tools, performance feedback, appreciation, social support, development opportunities, and supervisor support. Demands can be emotional and physical, and include things like work overload, sacrifices, work-life balance, and overtime.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do your employees have sufficient resources to cope with the demands of their role?
  • Are you creating a work environment that minimises or removes unnecessary stress?
  • What can you do to promote a positive work-life balance?

So, now we know what drives an employee’s mental wellbeing, what’s next? How do we measure and manage wellbeing? Stay tuned for Part 2…

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  1. Pingback: The case for happiness - EX Journal

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