As discussions and research on mental health and wellbeing gain momentum, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly apparent that mental health is a matter that impacts not only communities but also workplaces. On Feb. 8, the Salt Lake Chamber hosted a Master class titled “The Business Case for Employee Health” to discuss what businesses can do to take action.

Sentari Minor, Vice President of Strategy and Chief of Staff at evolvedMD, led the discussion. He began by sharing a few relevant statistics: 41% of all U.S. adults have experienced at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2022, Utah ranked 48th for adult mental health due to a higher prevalence and lower access to care.

Minor explained that these harrowing statistics have a direct impact on business, costing employers between $17–44 billion dollars annually. That means that prioritizing mental health in the workplace actually has a positive impact on a business’s bottom lines.

“In my opinion, mental health will be one of the biggest discussions we have this year,” Minor said, citing a recent article from the Society for Human Resource Management. He suggested that businesses implement six initiatives that improve wellness in the workplace:

  1. Foster Psychological Safety

According to a Forbes article from last year, data indicates that for almost 70% of people, their manager has more impact on their mental health than their therapist or doctor — roughly the same impact as their partner. 

“The gravity of that is so important,” Minor said, “And so is understanding that we have to invest in training to make our managers better managers.” He explained that in order to foster psychological safety in the workplace, businesses must equip and train managers to ensure employees feel heard and supported. 

  1. Incentivize Self Care

Minor’s own team at evolvedMD found wellness success in linking monetary compensation to self-care and wellness. 

“We have a bonus, and one of the components to qualify for your bonus is daily self-care; we track it on a habit tracker to keep people accountable,” reads the evolvedMD article outlining their wellness-oriented culture. “It’s just a core part of who we are. And we want to encourage it for everybody in the organization.”

Of course, for organizations who can’t implement policies like these, Minor explained that there are other, simpler ways to incentivize self-care, like sending out employee newsletters with wellness tips. What matters is the effort — and the culture each business works to foster.

  1. Promote Work-Life Balance and Workplace Wellness

Because wellness and employee performance are intrinsically linked, Minor explained that encouraging employees to take PTO and prioritize self-care is an essential business practice. He also suggested that managers should include wellness topics during performance conversations to show employees that they are supported both personally and professionally.

“We need to have conversations about this, like, ‘There are eight hours in your day, you should be able to take care of yourself,’” Minor said. “Those are great conversations to have with folks.”

  1. Boundaries as a Policy

In a fast-paced world, employees are often pressured to work outside of contracted or predetermined working hours in order to be seen as dedicated to the company. Minor suggests that companies should confine business to business hours, letting their employees leave work at work. He acknowledged that this looks different for each industry and organization, but that everyone can integrate boundaries into their work policies in some way or another without being overbearing.

“You have to be as authentic to your workplace as possible,” Minor said. “Implement whatever boundaries work for your company, but don’t be prescriptive.”

  1. Promote Employee Engagement 

No matter what company or industry, Minor suggests fostering deep connections among employees, speaking intentional resources on development and volunteering as a group. Many class participants also spoke positively about volunteering initiatives that their teams organized during company time. Minor explained that giving back to the community is proven to improve workplace wellness.

  1. Operationalize Culture

Most importantly, Minor said, companies need to work to prioritize wellbeing in every employee interaction. In his experience, doing so has not only led to increased trust in managers but also increased commitment from employees.

“People’s energy is really important,” Minor said. “After having [open and honest] conversations a couple of times, the ongoing dialogue helped everyone understand that I’ve invested in them both personally and professionally, so we can have those candid conversations. On the flip side, they’re high-performing, they’re loyal to the company, and they also give us very honest feedback on how to be better as a company, which serves us well.”

The next member training event is “Cyber Security Training for Businesses” on Feb. 29. For more events, visit the Salt Lake Chamber website.

About evolvedMD
Launched in 2017, evolvedMD is leading the integration of behavioral health services in modern primary care. Uniquely upfront and ongoing, our distinctive model places behavioral health specialists onsite within a practice. evolvedMD offers an economically viable and better way to integrate behavioral health that ultimately drives improved patient outcomes.