How to Build a Healthier Workplace by Prioritizing Mental Health Here are a few tips to help leaders take better care of their employees' mental health.

By Ibi Montesino

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The mark of a good leader is not how well she or he navigates the good times, as that is easy. It's during the tough times that leaders demonstrate and instill confidence that their organization's vision and mission are stronger and that they will emerge better and stronger.

As leaders have obligations to their organization's board and customers, they also have obligations to their employees and to make transitions as smooth as possible — particularly if they value retaining and attracting new talent. A recent survey found that 66% of workers said that the recent waves of layoffs have made them lose trust in the stability and security of full-time employment, and 62% said that it's made them feel less secure committing to one employer.

It's no secret that the mass layoffs that have been occurring across industries can have a negative impact on the mental health of workers across industries. Losing one's job induces feelings of vulnerability and low self-esteem, which could potentially evolve into depression and desperation. And the late challenges of inflation and recession can increase feelings of stress and anxiety.

Related: How to Improve Mental Wellness in the Workplace

The workplace could and should support mental health by providing a means of sustenance, a sense of purpose and a community where people can share ideas and work towards a common goal. But in these challenging times, it can also be a risk. According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity and an estimated 12 billion working days every year.

Unthinkable decisions must be made to create new efficiencies, mitigate risk, work more efficiently and reposition a business during times of extreme difficulty. But at the end of the day, we're all human, and even in business, it's not just about communication efficiencies, empathy and transparency. That's the foundation of our company, and it's what real leaders instill in their teams.

If you're experiencing these challenging times, here are some ways to handle tough decisions and ensure you take care of your employees and their mental health.

Lead with compassion

If you've ever been in a position where you've had to cut people from your teams, you know what it feels like to suffer together. Ours is a company that's based on relationships. Our independent distributors foster trusting relationships with their customers and their teams in order to be successful. Our corporate team is no different, and it's one of the things that makes companies like ours so wonderfully unique.

Leading with compassion fosters more loyalty, employee engagement and collaboration. During the difficult times, communicating with employees with compassion will make for an easier transition.

Related: What Leaders Get Wrong About Mental Health

Communicate transparently

Transparency is the best, and in my opinion, the only way to approach your employees during times of change. And it is for this reason that open and honest communication is integral. In fact, a recent report by Axios HQ around workplace communications in 2023 found that operational changes are the first, most critical updates employees want to know about. So, whether communicating by email, video or an all-company town hall, leaders should feel obliged to be honest and open about the change in company operations.

Helping your employees understand the risks the company faces and why and how decisions are being made can foster mutual respect and offer a greater sense of understanding. After all, employees can be your company's best ambassadors; whether they are staying or leaving, you want them to know that your organization did everything it could to look out for everyone.

Treat people with dignity

One of the best ways to safeguard a person's mental health when they receive bad news is to maintain their self-respect and self-esteem. Acknowledge the contributions they make, and do what you can to help them make transitions in their career, with packages, referrals or other reasonable resources.

Life is a journey — whether it's in our personal life or business, it's never a straight one. During adversity, we face challenges, but by overcoming these challenges, we create opportunities to come out stronger and better than ever.

This shift in the workplace is a time to refresh, look for and streamline new processes, problem-solve, scale sustainably and evolve. Figure out how your organization can make a bigger impact on its community. If you're a leader making tough choices for your organization, never forget that how you show up is important, because people are watching.

Related: Low-Cost Mental Health Strategies That Yield Big Results for Company Revenue and Employee Happiness

Wavy Line
Ibi Montesino

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

EVP, Distributor and Customer Experience and Chief of Staff at Herbalife

Ibi Montesino helps Herbalife deliver on its purpose to nourish the potential in everyone for a healthier future. She oversees functions that develop and deliver tools and programs that support its global independent distributors and their customers, while also serving as chief of staff.

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