In recent years, we have been discussing the importance of purpose and meaningfulness more and more. Kenjo is a company that represents this new work of the future, where employees want to know why they do what they do. They want to understand a company’s raison d'être and not just look forward to the next pay rise.
"For work-life balance and related mental health, it is important to know what the 'why' of one's work is."
Klementine Klein - Consultant at HRpepper
The younger generation especially, which now represents a larger share of the workforce, is very open when it comes to the desire for meaningful work. This has fuelled a completely new debate in many companies that was previously more implicit. Companies and managers often struggle with how to make this tangible and successfully communicate the "why" to their employees.
In an interview with management consultant Klementine Klein from German HR consultant HRpepper, we discover how important meaningful work is for the mental state of employees and learn some tips on how to actively promote health in the workplace.
What is the legal situation in Germany regarding mental health and work?
In Germany, the issue falls under the duty of care towards the employee and has thus been enshrined in law for a long time.
Companies must do everything they can to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees.
Since 2014, however, companies in Germany have also been obliged to assess the mental workloads of their employees and to take appropriate occupational health and safety measures.
What are the dangers of not dealing with this?
Again and again I experience reservations in organisations about dealing with such "soft issues". Because they sometimes seem elusive, managers worry that improvements or results will not be seen or measured. In response, I would argue that you can't afford not to address them.
If employees' wellbeing is ignored and their needs are not addressed, employees distance themselves from the company:
- As a protective mechanism, they mentally disconnect from their work,
- do not identify with their company
- and find it difficult to motivate themselves.
This is harmful for the organisation, as employees who are mentally absent are difficult to motivate and it is usually difficult to get them out of this status.
It is important that companies that deal with their "purpose" do so in collaboration with their employees. Only when employees identify with the purpose can it lead to the desired benefits. Even with a perfectly formulated "Purpose" statement, the work is not yet done.
This must then also be made practicable and tangible for everyone in the company, for example through a combination of participation and communication.
How can you actively promote health in organisations?
Here, too, there is no one magic formula, but companies can find a way that is right for them. The focus here should be on involving the company's own employees - assessing specific needs directly with the help of employee surveys to arrive at tailor-made solutions.
In my opinion, important points are:
- Mental and physical health belongs on the strategic agenda and in the company's goals, and is also linked to a financial budget.
- Managers should be strongly encouraged to lead by example, to see it as a management task and to integrate it as a factor in team and management goals.
- Open communication and addressing of mental health, free from social stigma.
- Creating transparency and introducing communication mechanisms so employees can talk about mental health problems concretely and regularly.
- Focus on motivation, including aspects such as personalised training, tangible appreciation and a constructive feedback culture.
- Working conditions and work organisation should be tailored to needs - hybrid is the future here.
- Prevention - integration of sports offers and psychological support measures with the help of experts, for example through digital offers.
What should be measured in concrete terms?
HR departments often find it difficult to formulate a business case to make their voice heard in the company. However, there are measurable factors that should be used for such business cases, including:
- Employee satisfaction
- Employee productivity
- Employee motivation
- Employee loyalty in connection with fluctuation rates
- Improved working atmosphere
- Reduced sickness costs and absenteeism
- and strong employer branding.
What influence does "Purpose" have on the mental health of employees - and vice versa?
Looking at an organisation’s "purpose" n is worthwhile from both an employee and employer perspective.
From the employee's perspective, examining an organisation’s purpose and goals makes them more tangible for employees, offering security, structure and motivation. Purpose also connects employees to each other as they work together towards a common goal rather than against each other, which can be a major stress factor.
Employers, on the other hand, benefit from employees feeling more connected to the organisation and more motivated, engaged and happy at work. For example, employees who identify with their organisation's "purpose" are 1.7 times more satisfied and three times more likely to stay with the company.
What influence do crises have on mental health?
The current ‘Kenjo report on Mental Health’ shows that especially in times of crisis, such as a global pandemic, it is important to deal with employee mental health and the company’s work purpose.
It may seem counterintuitive at first to put time and resources into such "soft issues" in times of crisis, when many are concerned with preserving their existence rather than justifying it. But hindsight shows us that, it is precisely those companies that use situations of upheaval, such as the economic crisis in 2008, to reflect on why they do what they do, which of their actions are still relevant and also, in particular, what their employees need in uncertain times such as these, that emerge stronger.
The coronavirus pandemic has turned a lot of things upside down. Where we work and how we communicate has changed and the boundaries between work and home as a place of retreat have become blurred. Many people have struggled to make ends meet, completely restructured their working lives and lost much of the security they were used to.
Now we are at a critical point, as in some companies employees are returning to their "old" jobs while the nature of their work has completely evolved.
What about mental health in the home office?
There is a lot of discussion about whether the office or remote working is the right solution and how many days it is best to work, how and where. While these are important discussions, we should also use this time of change to talk about how we can make the working world of the future more meaningful and sustainable in terms of employees' mental health.
During the pandemic, we were used to talking regularly and very openly about illness. Our plea is to keep this up in the aftermath.
"Now is a good time to reduce the stigma around mental and physical health in the workplace and to be more open in our exchanges with each other."
Klementine Klein - Consultant at HRpepper
At the same time, companies and managers have to deal with their responsibility and reflect on the role that the mental health of their employees plays in the company's values and "purpose".
Thank you for the exciting interview Klementine!
More articles on occupational safety and health and occupational health management here:
- A mental health policy for the workplace - Why your organisation needs one
Mental wellbeing at work: The German workplace 2021 to find out how organisations promote mental wellbeing at work.
About Klementine Klein
Klementine Klein supports companies in their strategic preparation for the future. She is convinced that continuous change is necessary for further development and success. That is why she wants to accompany people in organisations and teams on this exciting path. With a holistic view, Klementine supports clients in developing strategies that are aligned with processes and corporate culture.