October 24, 2023

Improving employee health and wellness continues to be a priority for many organizations, but managers may not be aware of how much they affect employees’ mental health, according to recent surveys.  

In a global survey by UKG’s Workforce Institute, 69% of employees said their managers had the greatest impact on their mental health, on par with their partner or spouse – and more than their doctors (51%) or therapists (41%).  And 1 in 3 employees said their manager fails to recognize the impact they have on their team’s mental wellbeing. 

Other findings in the report:  

  • 7 in 10 employees would like their organization and managers to do more to support their mental health.  
  • 38% of employees say they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ talk with their manager about their workload.  
  • And while a lack of financial wellness is a source of stress and anxiety, 81% of employees surveyed would prioritize mental health over a high-paying job; and 64% would take a pay cut for a job that offers better mental wellness support – 70% of managers would, too. 

Deloitte’s latest wellbeing at work survey also highlights managers’ pivotal role, with 94% of employees saying their manager should have some responsibility for their wellbeing, and 96% of managers agreeing. However, managers cite company policies, a heavy workload, lack of skills and workplace culture as barriers to providing their teams with more support. These factors may help explain why 32% of employees in the survey don’t feel their manager cares about their wellbeing. 

How can managers better support employees’ mental health and wellness? 

It starts with senior leadership’s commitment to creating a workplace culture, policies, programs and practices that address the whole person and the multidimensions of health and wellness. These elements help improve workforce wellbeing for everyone, including the C-suite, who are also experiencing mental health challenges from a demanding workplace. 

In Deloitte’s survey, 75% of the C-suite respondents said they are ‘seriously considering quitting’ for a job that would better support their wellbeing. 

As for managers, when empowered to improve their team’s wellbeing and equipped with the right tools, resources and training, they can do more to create a positive work environment and support their team members’ health and wellbeing by:   

  • Fostering psychological safety and encouraging employees to share whatever issues they may be struggling with. When employees feel psychologically safe, they are comfortable asking for help, voicing concerns and using the organization’s employee assistance program (EAP) and other resources.  
  • Offering flexible work options that recognize employees’ family and personal responsibilities and empower team members to work when and where they do their best.  
  • Raising awareness of the multiple dimensions of health and wellbeing and the interconnection of emotional, physical, social, financial, intellectual, occupational, environmental and spiritual wellness. 
  • Learning how to recognize signs of stress, burnout and mental health issues. Some common signs are absenteeism and tardiness, decreases in work performance, mood swings and changes in personality.  
  • Practicing active listening and scheduling regular one-on-one check-ins. Listening attentively to employees’ concerns and issues and asking thoughtful questions makes people feel heard, understood and supported in their health and wellness journey.   
  • Sharing their own health and wellness challenges. Managers who are willing to be vulnerable can make a big difference in reducing mental health bias, stigma and fear around discussing mental health issues. 
  • Modeling good behavior and healthy habits. These include taking breaks and vacations, making time for exercise and other stress-reducing activities, avoiding after-hour emails and texts and encouraging employees to do the same.   
  • Promoting honest, transparent communication, a sense of belonging, empathy and genuine interest in what’s going on in team members’ lives, inside and outside of the workplace. 
  • Soliciting feedback through a variety of communication channels, such as surveys, online suggestion boxes and employee resource groups. Giving employees opportunities throughout the year to share their views and changing priorities helps the organization offer benefits that meet the needs of employees and the organization.  
  • Reminding employees to take advantage of the organization’s different benefits, resources, training and in-person and online sessions that focus on different dimensions of health and wellness.  

Organizations that prioritize employee health and wellness and empower managers to support their team’s wellbeing can benefit from improvements in engagement, retention, productivity, team performance and business outcomes. Get a free trial of Traliant’s interactive Employee Health and Wellness Training.  



Maggie Smith