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7 Ways Leaders Can Support Emotional Wellness in the Workplace

February 22, 2022
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7 mins

Emotionally healthy employees perform better and are less likely to quit. Support your team's emotional wellness at work with these seven tips.

Linda Le Phan
Emotionally healthy employees perform better and are less likely to quit. Support your team's emotional wellness at work with these seven tips.

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Employee wellness isn't just about how employees feel physically. It also encompasses their mental health and emotional state. And now that remote work has introduced a new set of stressors to the employee experience, emotional wellness in the workplace should be a top concern for every remote team leader.

Why is emotional wellness at work important? 

There are several benefits to promoting emotional wellness at work. First, an employee who feels valued and cared for emotionally is more engaged in their work. In addition, emotionally healthy employees perform better, take fewer sick days, and are less likely to quit. All of this contributes to a more stable and supportive environment for everyone. 

Neglecting your employees’ mental health and emotional wellness also comes with a steep cost. Not managing emotional stress among your team members can lead to cynicism and exhaustion. When conditions don't improve, they eventually suffer from burnout, disengage from their work, and quit.  

The emotional wellness in your organization hinges on how well you listen to, respond to, and meaningfully support your employees' emotional needs. 

Here are seven ways leaders can support and improve emotional wellness at work:

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Want to do more to support mental health in your workplace?

Take the Pledge

1. Offer and encourage time off

Every person's experience at work is unique, so it's difficult to address your employees' emotional needs individually. However, there is one approach that's universally beneficial, and that is encouraging your employees to take more time off. 

Start by nudging them to take the PTO they're already entitled to. Only about a quarter of employees take all of their PTO, and 9% take no paid time off at all. 

An even bigger gesture of support is offering your employees more PTO days or designating specific mental health days for resting and recharging. Many companies have done this, including Nike, LinkedIn, and Bumble, who have offered their employees a whole week off for mental health. 

2. Set boundaries 

A big source of emotional and mental strain among remote employees comes from trying to keep work and personal life separate. It's hard for even the most disciplined workers to do it well, because how can you separate your office and home...when the office is your home? 

The answer is for employees to set limits and for leaders to respect and uphold them. 

Daniel Foley, SEO Specialist at Planday, explains the importance of setting limits between work and personal time. 

"It might be tough to divide work and personal time when you no longer have the physical break of leaving the office and driving home at the end of the working day, [but] employees who work from home must be encouraged to draw a line between their professional and personal lives." 

Foley shares some ideas on how to draw this line: "Managers can accomplish this by demonstrating their faith in their staff and encouraging them to set limits for their job. By emphasizing the significance of this balance, your employees will feel empowered to unplug at the end of the workday and recharge. If you observe someone working or sending emails after hours, check-in with them to make sure they aren't fighting to unplug and aren't suffering from high-stress levels."

3. Send employee engagement surveys

Employees don't experience emotional stress at work for no reason. It's often from being unappreciated, overworked, or operating under impossible conditions or expectations. But you won't know for sure unless you ask them. 

Employee surveys are a great option to get employees to talk about their own mental health and wellness in a structured and productive way. It's also less pressure on individual employees since no one gets singled out. There are a few ways you can do employee surveys:

  • Send out a one-time engagement survey.
  • Conduct periodic pulse surveys.
  • Leverage Kona for daily check-ins and monitoring overall team wellness in a real-time health dashboard.

4. Be open as a leader

There's a proverb that says, "'a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved," and it applies to employees’ mental health. When we, as humans, find that we're not alone in our struggles, it makes the suffering more bearable. Likewise, you can help your employees’ mental health by showing vulnerability from the top down. 

Have your company's leaders be transparent about their mental health and show examples of self-care. More likely than not, this will inspire others to join in on the conversation. 

Tony Chan, co-founder and CEO of CloudForecast, emphasizes the importance of leaders setting an example and creating a comfortable space for employees to open up. 

"Provide resources and be accessible. For many remote employees, a lack of emotional health comes with a lack of community and an inability to find proper assistance. As a leader, making yourself accessible and being intentional with your employees provides them with comfort in reaching out to you if need be, and understanding that you have their best interests in mind."

5. Introduce healthy norms 

Reflect upon your workplace and how team interactions and performance have been. Do you notice any common blockers or sources of stress? If so, addressing those things can improve your collective team's emotional wellness. 

In many remote organizations, common blockers and sources of stress include:

  • Too many video conferencing meetings
  • Unreasonable expectations 
  • Miscommunication
  • Inefficient processes
  • Inflexible work schedule 

An increasing number of remote companies — and countries — are shifting to a 4-day workweek to address these issues all at once. It requires a new mindset of measuring employee performance by the work they accomplish rather than the hours they’re “clocked-in.” The result is employees who are happier, rested, and healthier mentally.  

Some companies that have adopted the 4-day work week successfully include Wildbit, Uncharted, and The Wanderlust Group.

For those who aren’t ready to drop a whole day from the workweek, offering a flexible schedule is a powerful alternative. Daniel Cook, Head of Business Development at Mullen & Mullen, found that loosening work schedule expectations were a simple change that improved his team's quality of life.

"I formatted a policy along with my team which allowed employees to work according to their own schedules from home. Employees were allowed to schedule their own meetings with teams at their convenience. This enabled employees to work from the comfort of their homes without affecting the company's goals and tasks."

6. Give recognition

Emotional wellness is complex, so it's easy to feel overwhelmed trying to tackle it as an organization. One small but effective step every leader can take is to recognize employees' efforts and accomplishments. 

Recognition shows your employees their value to the company. It also helps reduce insecurity and inadequacy — two huge detractors to emotional wellness. 

Alyssa Berman-Waugh, VP of Marketing at Level, advises leaders to acknowledge the connection between emotional wellness and their team's performance. 

"Employers should accept that emotional wellness directly impacts their employees' work, and it's crucial to find ways to make them feel supported."

Part of how she supports her team members is through individual recognition. "I make it a point to help each of my employees feel valued, both for the work they do as well as the humans they are. I encourage them to take care of themselves in whatever way is best for them (working out, taking a walk, spending time with family, etc). I also think taking breaks from video can help, so some of our meetings are old-school phone calls."

7. Provide resources

Emotional wellness is a very personal topic that some employees would rather navigate on their own. You can honor their privacy while still being supportive of their mental health by providing tools and resources they can opt into if they choose.   

Some popular emotional wellness options to make available to your employees include meditation apps like Headspace or Calm, education sessions around mental health, and counseling services. 

If you're unsure of what type of emotional wellness resource would benefit the highest percentage of your employees, a stipend covers a broad range of needs. Today, many remote companies, including Basecamp, Webflow, and Coinbase, offer a wellness stipend or allowance as an employee benefit.

Malte Scholz, CEO and CPO of Airfocus, has also found success in offering a wellness allowance to his team. 

"Since we work remotely, it's really hard to have joint wellness activities. That's why we provide an allowance for all our employees that are meant to be spent on wellness activities. In the beginning, we used to issue vouchers, but logistics were sometimes too complex. Instead, we focused on individual wellness packages and set aside a substantial allowance for different services. Of course, we don't ask people how they spent their money, but everyone is highly encouraged to use it for their relaxation and both physical and mental health."

When an employee struggles with their mental health at work, the whole team struggles with them. Rather than letting it get to that point, be proactive in providing the emotional wellness support your team needs. 

These seven tips will help you both diagnose and resolve the common issues impacting your employees' emotional wellness so that everyone can focus on having fun and doing their best work. 

Meet the Author

Linda Le Phan

Linda is a Boston-based content writer with 10 years of experience crafting content for human-centric B2B brands. She covers topics like remote work, productivity, recruitment, mental health, and more. Her goal is to promote transparency, empathy, and honest introspection within companies and their leaders.

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