Humans are hardwired for social connection, and they suffer when they don’t get enough of it. This has been evident during the last year and a half as people were forced to keep human contact to a minimum, resulting in mental health issues including poor life satisfaction, work-related stress, and higher levels of substance abuse, research shows.
That need for connection doesn’t stop when people walk through the door at work or sit down in their home office, and mental health issues matter a great deal in terms of human cost and lost productivity. The World Health Organization estimates that the common mental health issues of anxiety and depression cost more than $1 trillion per year in lost productivity worldwide. Supporting employee well-being is simply good management.
The Mental Health Foundation recommends mentoring as an effective way to support mental health at work. Mentorship can be an important tool for fostering the kind of human interconnection that promotes employee well-being. This is especially true today, given the challenges that remote and hybrid work environments pose in terms of isolation and extra stress.
With January being National Mentoring Month, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the ways mentorship can aid employees in their mental and emotional health. Provide successful mentorship with these tips:
Foster EngagementMentoring offers opportunities for people to interact on a deeper level and connect, often amongst people who might not normally cross paths. This kind of connection in the workplace fights feelings of isolation, forms friendships, and creates higher levels of engagement. In fact, research shows the presence of a friend at work or several personal friendships is an important element in workplace engagement. When people are engaged with their workplace, they feel better about their work life, care more about their co-workers, and produce better experiences for customers—all contributing to a positive overall outlook.
Form Trusting RelationshipsSuccessful mentoring forms trusting relationships between mentors and mentees that create an atmosphere of psychological safety. This opens the door for honest and open discussion of sensitive or difficult topics that may be causing emotional stress. In this environment, mentees who have personal or work-related issues can turn to their mentors for support and advice. While no one recommends that mentors take the place of a professional therapist for serious mental health issues, employees who are able to talk about problems and explore ideas for solutions can receive a big boost in well-being.
Increase Workplace InclusionFeeling excluded or unfairly treated is a major contributor to employee unhappiness. In fact, according to the 2017 Tech Leavers Study, 40 percent of employees who left companies said their personal experiences of exclusion, unfairness, or mistreatment played a major role in their decision to leave.
Mentorship helps create feelings of inclusion, especially when mentoring is specifically aimed at increasing diversity and belonging. Mentoring programs with goals focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) create an environment of acceptance and empathetic support where employees can feel free to bring their authentic selves to work, either in person or virtually. In this kind of atmosphere, employees are encouraged to speak up about issues of bias or microaggression so they can feel heard and supported.
Create a Sense of PurposeOne of the main goals of mentoring is to help guide mentees toward their future ambitions. This focus on realizing the future via concrete, step-by-step milestones can be a powerful antidote to feelings of anxiety, doubt, or fear, especially with the opportunity to receive guidance when roadblocks arise.
It’s not only mentees who benefit in this way, however. A study focusing on police officers in England showed that officers who served as mentors described their jobs as more meaningful and reported lower levels of anxiety than officers who did not act as mentors.
It’s clear that meaningful personal interaction between people in the workplace has a big effect on how people feel about themselves and their work. That type of interaction is exactly what mentorship accomplishes. When companies establish successful mentoring programs, both individual employees and organizations reap the benefits.