To say that the pandemic affected the mental health of employees is a massive understatement. And employers are well aware of the problem, which is why more companies are starting to offer mental health benefits.

But there’s an issue. 

Despite the fact that 32% of employers increased their investment in mental health programs, employees still don’t think companies are doing enough. Where is the disconnect?

According to Heather Dalmasso, Director of Consultants and Alliances at Calm, organizations have to go a step beyond just offering benefits and actually embed well-being into the employee experience.

We were thrilled to have Heather lead a conversation about this topic at Engage 2022. If you missed her session, watch the recording below. Or, if you’re looking for the quick hits, check out our recap.

Why communicating care is crucial to employee well-being

According to Heather, the disconnect between employees’ mental health issues and employers’ attempts to help is largely due to a lack of perceived organizational support (POS).

This concept refers to employees’ perceptions about whether their organization values their contributions and cares about their well-being. And despite its questionable acronym, POS plays a critical role in reducing stress, burnout, and turnover.

To increase POS, you have to understand that employees tend to assign human-like characteristics to organizations. For instance, we describe companies as being “supportive” or “authentic” if we feel positively about them. Or if we feel negatively about organizations, we say they’re “unethical” or “lack empathy.”

And every individual moment of an employee’s experience—from recruitment to exit—shapes their perception of what ‘type’ of organization they work for. 

“The experience of onboarding a new hire, a performance review, or a firing doesn’t only influence the individual. It expresses who we are and what we care about to the entire team.”

Heather Dalmasso Director of Consultants and Alliances, Calm

To show everyone at your organization that you’re deeply invested in their well-being, you have to find ways to communicate care. One way to accomplish this is by taking a more mindful approach to the employee experience. 

The 4 Ms of a mindful employee experience

Before we go any further, let’s get crystal clear on what mindfulness means. Mindfulness is setting an intention to pay attention in the present moment with kindness, openness, and non-judgment. To help you create a more mindful employee experience, Heather shared the 4 M framework they use at Calm. 

Motivation: The Why

Part of designing a mindful employee experience is pinpointing why you’re doing something. Are you offering mental health benefits because it’s what your competitors are doing? Or is it because you genuinely care about the well-being of your workforce? 

Since positive intent is key to increasing POS, Heather encourages companies to make caring for employees their primary motivation. And guess what? What’s good for employees is good for business, so you’ll see a positive ripple effect when it comes to your bottom line. 

Moments: The When

There are key moments throughout every employee lifecycle. And every employee’s experience around these moments will shape how they perceive their organization.

For instance, during the onboarding process, someone’s first interaction with their manager can determine how they feel about the company. Similarly, during the offboarding process, the exit interview can affect whether an employee leaves their job feeling negatively or positively about the organization. That’s why it’s critical to infuse these moments with genuine care. 

Management: The Who

While everyone—from the newest hire to the CEO—plays a critical role in communicating care, you could argue that managers are the window through which employees view your organization. There’s a reason why managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement.

Knowing this, give your managers the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to show up for your employees—whether that’s offering training programs to help them cultivate empathy or offering meditation apps that allow them to be more mindful during their one-on-one interactions.

Methods: The How

In other words: how will you communicate care to employees in the moments that matter? Here are a few tactics Heather shared: 

  • Spell it out from the beginning. Don’t assume your employees know that your organization cares—be explicit. Sometimes a simple statement like “hey, we see you, and we know you’re tired. What can we do to help?” can make all the difference.
  • Give permission to rest. One of the best ways to demonstrate care is to give people permission to take a collective break. That’s why Calm frequently incorporates mental health days, weeks, and even moments into their schedules. 
  • Integrate digital mental health tools. “These tools, the benefits you have, rolling them out in the correct way and using them as part of your employee experience is the best way to communicate care,” said Heather. 

It’s time to take a more mindful approach to your employee experience

Whether you’ve been offering mental health benefits for years or are just recognizing the need for these offerings, consider making mindfulness an integral part of your strategy. If you found this recap helpful, check out the entire conversation with Heather and our other HR and benefits leaders.

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