The workforce confronted constant changes in 2021, including navigating return to site and hybrid models, the rise of variants and vaccine mandates, and global disruptions in the supply chain. A burned-out workforce across many industries pushed back against unreasonable employer demands. Recognition of the importance of mental health awareness in the workplace began to change.
Performance and wellbeing challenges continued to be worsened by the pandemic. Eventually, this drove the demand for business resilience as the wellbeing market—projected to be worth $1.5 trillion—rounded a significant corner.
According to meQuilibrium CEO and founder, Jan Bruce, mental health problems are more pervasive than ever. “The biggest challenge facing employers in 2022 is to be able to predict and prevent employee mental health problems early—before they have a negative impact—and create a culture of mental wellbeing.” Jan predicts, “Employers will take a head-first approach to wellbeing to reduce costs, manage attrition, and enable post-pandemic transformation.”
In 2022, Patrick Kennedy, meQuilibrium advisor and former congressman, one of the world’s leading voices on mental health and addiction, foresees changes to the infrastructure of healthcare. “Younger generations are embracing mental health like never before. This isn’t just great in terms of awareness and anti-stigma, it’s great in terms of the pressure they will ultimately put on health care systems (often via their employers) to move to an integrated model of care that treats the body and the mind.”
Andrew Shatté, PhD and Chief Knowledge Officer of meQuilibrium has pegged mental health as the workplace issue of the next decade. “The next decade will be exemplified by organizations trying to stem the mental illness tide. To be successful they will need to get to the root cause. They will need to renegotiate the basic employer-employee social contract. They will need to equip their people with the tools of resilience. They will need to work on creating corporate cultures of resilience from top to bottom.”
Brad Smith, PhD and Chief Science Officer of meQuilbrium suggests a step in the right direction for people leaders is to identify thinking styles across the workforce. “Due to the rapid pace of change and the disruption that has been wrought by social/political unrest and two years of the pandemic, measuring employees’ change agility/adaptive capacity will emerge as a key people analytics priority in 2022.”
Even as uncertainty abounds, Jonathan Gelfand, SVP, Solutions Consulting at meQuilibrium says, “HR leaders that have in place a measurable evidence-based resilience strategy across their workforce are in a stronger position to win the battle for talent. Workforce resilience is correlated with workforce engagement, attraction, and retention.”
Alanna Fincke, NBC-HWC and SVP of meQuilibrium suggests the first line of defense to cope with constant change starts with caring for our mental health and boosting resilience. “We thought 2021 was going to be a year to celebrate going back to normal. A vaccine was coming and all the expectations it brought. But things turned out to be a lot more….well, complicated. Life will remain fast-changing and uncertain, as the pandemic and other issues continue. This new reality requires a whole new skill set to not just cope, but to actually feel good again in our lives.”
What if we could just reimage physical, mental, and spiritual health within the workplace? Adam Pearlman, MD and Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of meQuilibrium says we can. “As many seek to grow and evolve with the new perspective that the pandemic has brought, they will look with renewed vigor to enhance their physical, mental and spiritual health. Increasingly, these opportunities will be provided within the workplace as work-life integration (formerly known as balance) is re-imagined.”
Jan concluded by explaining the seriousness of mental health resilience, “By taking workplace mental health seriously and working to predict who is at risk, we will see a payoff in improved work performance and a profound change in organizational performance. Increasingly employers will look to data-driven insights to understand the mental resilience of their workforce and address vulnerabilities proactively.”
On-demand work/life integration will lead the way. Employers will need to incorporate tools that help them travel beyond an intellectual understanding of mental wellbeing and consider the return of mindful practices to meet the needs of an evolved workforce.