The Inextricable Link Between Employee Performance, BIology and Mental Health: Driving Positive Change in Businesses

Posted on May 1st 2024
Social Economic

Businesses are having to deal with extraordinary challenges, from turbulent geopolitics and climate change to constant competitive challenges and disruption due to new technologies. At the same time, people and the knowledge and skills they bring have increasingly become the differentiator between success and failure, yet many employees are struggling more than ever to maintain high levels of health and performance, exacerbated by uncertainty and personal economic and financial pressure.

In addition, many businesses are now undertaking considerable change to meet the growing expectations of stakeholders to understand and manage their wider social and environmental impact. However, to incorporate this change, a new understanding has started to emerge, one that emphasises the crucial connection between employee performance and mental health. Recognising this link has become vital for businesses seeking to make positive change.

However, as with any change, embedding sustainability principles into an organisation requires leadership, innovation, belief in the value of the changes being made and giving agency to those adjusting how and why they operate. As any leader knows, constant change is a rich environment for anxiety. But what is anxiety? How does it impact our health, and how can leaders navigate the challenges?

A Meta-analysis of World Health Organisation data suggests that 80% of mental ill health derives from dysregulated mood or emotion. These “feelings” are quite different in root cause, and it is important to understand if anxiety is one or the other. Anxiety is one thing, but if left unresolved, it can become seriously debilitating. In order to resolve it, we need to understand what is causing it.

Mood-related anxiety can be harder to detect than in emotion-related anxiety. In mood, it stems from being biologically under-resourced, commonly through poor sleep or irregular and/or poor nutrition. Constant, low-level anxiety can be exhausting and the cause is easily misattributed to work or workload alone. If the under-resourced biology that caused the disturbed, anxious/tense mood remains, then over time the mood can become dysregulated and this is clinically predictive of poor mental health, as well as performance.

Emotional anxiety is often triggered by our innate need for certainty or clarity. For example, an important meeting or presentation - if there is uncertainty about how well it will go, that will trigger an emotional response. Whilst this anxiety/tension may not feel good for many people this anxiety/tension is a helpful elevation of biological stress that focuses attention and releases energy to deal with the important event. Once the event is (successfully) completed, the emotional trigger is resolved, and biological stress reduces to normal levels. However, if the uncertainty is caused by something far harder to resolve, such as financial/job insecurity, then the biological stress (anxiety) created by the emotion can become permanent, and this, too, is clinically predictive of poor mental health and performance.

Understanding and prioritising employee mental health is essential in fostering a supportive work environment, and providing the right environment to make changes of any kind, be it cultural, strategic, or sustainability-focused. By managing the mental and emotional well-being of employees during periods of uncertainty, companies can unlock a multitude of benefits, including enhanced engagement, improved innovation, and, ultimately, greater success.

Our partnership with CHX Performance

CHX Performance is a leadership development consultancy delivering programmes to global and local organisations in the fields of People Sustainability, Humanising Leadership, and Reframing Mental Health. Grounded in Science - one of the CHX co-founders is a globally renowned Professor in Cognition & Neuroscience - CHX and FuturePlus share a vision of a world full of higher performing, more engaged, kinder organisations, with leadership and management teams able to create pro-social, highly engaged environments that enable their people to achieve all their career aspirations whilst staying and feeling well.

To find out more, please contact: [email protected]

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