Three Commonly Overlooked Ways To Foster Employee Mental Well-Being


CEO of DeskTime – a time tracking and productivity app for companies and freelancers. He’s also an amateur athlete and father of two.

In 2021, more than 38 million people in the U.S. left their jobs, contributing to the trend dubbed as the “Great Resignation.” One of the reasons for this is the pandemic gave people the time to reevaluate their priorities in work and life, and many realized they need to (finally) take care of themselves.

A report by Mind Share Partners found that half of the people who left their jobs in 2021 did so due, at least in part, to mental health reasons. For years, companies had promoted the hustle culture, while not paying enough attention to their employees’ well-being. This led to high levels of burnout and job dissatisfaction, and last year, this work culture reached the breaking point.

How do we move on from this crisis? If you ask me, the answer is unoriginal and straightforward: We need to start paying more attention to our employees’ well-being. However, before you hire a mindfulness coach or organize meditation sessions for your employees with a Buddhist monk (we’ve actually done it!), here are three undervalued yet effective ways to ensure your team’s well-being — starting today.

Encourage your team to take more breaks.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck and companies had no choice but to switch to remote work, many employers feared their team’s productivity would decrease. The reality, however, was often the complete opposite — finding it difficult to separate work from home, many people worked longer hours and took fewer breaks.

Back in 2014, our company’s study found that the most productive people work for about 52 minutes, then take a 17 minutes break. In 2021, our updated study showed that people have started to work longer sprints — 112 minutes straight — and only then take a break.

Longer working sprints isn’t anything concerning, per se, as long as people take breaks between them. Skipping breaks has been proven to lead to faster burnout and higher stress levels. Whereas regular breaking can relieve stress, as well as increase employee focus and productivity.

A simple Pomodoro timer that regularly reminds employees to take a break is an easy way to encourage more frequent breaking. At DeskTime, we even integrated such a timer in our app. That’s how serious we are about breaks at work.

Lobby for active recreation.

I’m an amateur athlete. I run and participate in bike races; I do cross-country skiing and go downhill skiing. Sport is meditation to me. When I run or cycle, I’m all in. I’m fully disconnected from work — and that disconnection is exactly what people need to recharge and maintain a healthy mind.

One Harvard study found that “running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression” by 26%. Exercise has also been found to be an effective treatment for anxiety and stress — common reasons for burnout and other mental health issues.

Active recreation has become an integral part of our company’s culture. Every year, apart from setting work goals, we also set our sports goals and keep track of them through our team’s joint Strava account. There, we can see how others are doing, get inspired and motivated, as well as maintain friendly competition between each other.

In 2021, our team of 11 people exercised for a total of 2,005 hours and 52 minutes. That’s more than 182 hours per person! This year, we’re aiming for at least 2022 hours as a team.

Give your employees a paid day off.

Every month, our employees can take one paid day off for any health-related reason, including mental health. So, if someone feels they need to step back and take a break from work, they’re free to do it, no questions asked.

One day off is definitely not enough to cure burnout or heal one’s mental health issues. At the same time, it may help to reduce stress and release tension, give people the time to rejuvenate and then come back with a clearer mind. In other words, while a day off won’t cure burnout, it may help to prevent it in the first place.

For some, paying for a day off for every employee every month may seem like a big burden on a company’s finances. At the same time, data show that it’s even more costly if the employee leaves. On average, replacing an employee costs a company six to nine months of that employee’s salary.

We’ve been offering our employees this option since day one, and we haven’t gone out of business — far from it! Last year, we grew by 160%, doubled our team and kept our staff turnover low. By showing our staff that we care about their mental well-being, we’ve boosted our staff’s morale and job satisfaction. As a result, people rarely take mental health days. But when they do, we support them — both emotionally and financially. 


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