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  • Andrew Stephenson

From Languishing to Thriving: Do you need a Mental Health RTW strategy?

Most employers recognize the massive impact of poor mental health on costs and performance but it’s a challenge to feel equipped to confidently and proactively manage them. Most companies have robust workplace injury and return to work policies to mitigate the impact of lost time, but mental health has traditionally been more reactive and less openly addressed. A broken bone, a laceration, or a joint sprain is clearly defined; it either exists or it doesn’t and there is clarity when it has healed. Mental health and trauma are anything but clear. They are concealed and far more challenging to determine when, if ever, they are “healed,” but that certainly doesn’t make them any less real.

During the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, data from the CDC revealed a three-fold increase in mental health problems relating to depression and anxiety, with almost half of some population groups reporting symptoms.

While the pandemic continues to burden us in waves, for many, much of the initial shock and anxiety has waned, only to be replaced with enormous mental fatigue and a still present overlay of anxiety and pessimism. You’ve probably heard your friends and colleagues describing their symptoms, probably feel them yourself: it’s not quite burnout; you still have energy. It’s not really depression; you don’t feel hopeless, and yet you are still not well and thriving. You’re somewhere in the middle, just being… but somewhat joyless and aimless. A recent NY Times article by Adam Grant described this brilliantly, and the term for what many are feeling is: languishing, and I believe it’s a key driver of the “Great Resignation.”

I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Great Resignation.” But do you understand what’s driving it? Initially, many pegged the phenomenon as a battle over flexibility, and people threatening to quit if they were required to return to the office. But it’s far deeper than that. In the face of monumental events in the world around us – the pandemic, climate change, social and political movements – many are simply questioning their priorities and the purpose or value of their work. When we’re stressed by external stressors, people are left questioning whether there’s enough meaning or enough personal and emotional payback to add work stressors into the mix. Sadly, many are finding there isn’t enough meaning or emotional reward.

There has never been a more important time to ensure your employees feel connected to their purpose, connected to their peers, and empowered to manage their personal energy. This requires deliberate reflection, clear connection of daily work to greater goals, and education for individuals to learn meaningful personal strategies for managing energy and their work-life balance. Checking these items can bridge both personal and professional development and can help people reconnect with the emotional value they find through work.

In the immediate short term, as we all try to productively negotiate the emotional long-haul induced by the pandemic as well as limiting the impact of the “Great Resignation”, perhaps you should consider approaching it like a “Mental Health Return To Work” plan. Draw a line in the sand. Will your organization suffer the lagging impact of post-traumatic stress, or emerge stronger, primed for post-traumatic growth? Ignoring your people’s struggle to thrive will turn them away. Embracing a culture of acceptance, support, and a vision forward will give you more resilient people, and ultimately, a more resilient business.

Do you recognize that your team or your people need help? Don’t know where to start? We’d love to introduce you to HBD’s unique, and extremely timely health and high-performance programs. Please reach out to us and we’d love to learn about your team and your needs.


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