A company’s values can set the tone for its culture—they are an important component of workforce mental health because they help create a unified direction for the entire workforce and a common understanding of what matters to the company and its people. Company values provide a constant and highly visible “north star,” guiding employees in their everyday actions—as well as guiding entire work cultures through a consistent set of shared, meaningful attributes and qualities.
Joe Grasso, PhD, senior director of workforce mental health at Lyra, weighed in on the importance of company values when it comes to supporting employee mental health and well-being.
Mental health is a vital yet often overlooked aspect of company values for a couple key reasons.
First, employee mental health has historically been marginalized at the expense of other common corporate values that center on hard work and achievement. If mental health and other values related to well-being and morale aren’t explicitly named as peers to achievement-oriented values, it leaves room for the interpretation that achievement is valued above employee wellness. In reality, they’re complementary. Employees who work in an environment that prioritizes mental health and well-being are more productive and resilient—and more likely to stay.
Second, mental health is often stigmatized, so incorporating mental health into company values provides a level of visibility that removes it from the shadows and demonstrates its universal importance.
At Lyra, one of our values is “mind yourself”—we ask employees to reflect on how they’re acting in accordance with this value through practicing self-care and setting and honoring work-life boundaries. We demonstrate our dedication to this value by encouraging managers to model putting well-being first and inviting employees to provide input on how to improve the work experience. Lyra also does its best to provide a safe space for those conversations, and offers ongoing employee programs and benefits that support individual wellness.
Company values that reinforce a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB); a culture of appreciation; psychological safety; and self-care implicitly promote mental health. These are all components of mentally healthy work cultures. Any value that honors the humanity of the workforce is in service of mental health and well-being.
Mental health benefits programs are a tangible way companies can demonstrate how they put mental health first—but they need to ensure that these benefits are impactful for all employees. Mental health benefits need to be comprehensive and culturally relevant to everyone across the spectrum of mental health issues, from stress to more complex mental health needs.
Mental health benefits also need to provide easy access to a network of providers that’s culturally and racially diverse and can meet the specialized needs of marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ+ and those affected by racial trauma, so nobody is left out and everyone gets the support they deserve on their mental health journey.
It’s also important to recognize that the mental health of employees’ families impacts their personal well-being, so an effective mental health benefit should extend to dependents of all ages and include coverage for families as well.
Benefits alone can’t solve organizational problems that contribute to work-related mental health distress—like values that discourage employees from prioritizing their well-being. Equally important as comprehensive, culturally responsive, easy-to-access mental health benefits are managers who lead by example and demonstrate values, flexible work policies like global mental health days that help people achieve work-life balance, and cultures that encourage appreciation and career development opportunities.
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ABOUT THE EXPERT
Joe Grasso, PhD, is the senior director of workforce health at Lyra and a clinical psychologist by training. Dr. Grasso consults with employers on mental health initiatives in the workplace and leads the development and delivery of Lyra’s educational content. He also specializes in developing, evaluating, and disseminating evidence-based behavioral health care programs.