Emotional Wellbeing and Wellness in the Workplace 

28 September 2021
Emotional wellbeing is a key component of our overall health. People who are emotionally well are better able to handle life challenges, keep problems in perspective and bounce back from setbacks. While our mental health also includes how our mind processes and understands information, emotional health is our ability to manage and express the emotions that arise as a result.   

Our emotional wellbeing has a significant impact on our work. Poor emotional wellbeing can cause changes in behaviour like those experienced with poor mental health. We may have emotional outbursts e.g. anger or panic attacks, errors in thinking or low mood. 

All of these signs of poor emotional wellbeing are likely to have a negative impact on our work. People experiencing poor emotional health may not want to take on tasks, be more likely to engage in conflict and have difficulty problem solving.

As emotional health is a component of overall mental health, there are limited statistics on emotional health specifically but mental illness, in general, is shown to lead to increased absenteeism, lower productivity, poor performance and increases in human error. In the Netherlands it is estimated almost 60% of work related disabilities are linked to emotional wellbeing and it is estimated to contribute to up to 40% of workplace absence in the UK. 

As an international HR manager, it is likely you are aware of the negative impact poor emotional wellbeing can have in the workplace. You may have seen statistics or experienced the increase in absence, conflict or turnover that can result where a business does not take employee wellbeing into consideration. 

Whether your business is starting a journey to prioritising employees' emotional health or if you would like to do better, there are many common-sense approaches that have been shown to help.

Depending on where your business is based, there may be a legal duty on you to complete stress risk assessments. Even if it is not a legal requirement, knowing the causes of stress, who may be harmed and how your business can take action is a great starting point for protecting employee’s emotional wellbeing. 
Begin the focus on mental health early by providing all employees, but particularly new employees with a comprehensive induction programme. This should clearly indicate one-to-one meetings with managers and key stakeholders for their role, physical and organisational orientation and health and safety information as a minimum. Clear communication from the beginning will help people understand their responsibilities, but also where to find help should they need it.
Does your business have policies in place to support mental health issues if employees are struggling? This could be providing mental health first aid training to some employees, assistance programmes for people who may be struggling or management training to spot mental health issues amongst employees on their team. 

Does your business allow for flexible working practices so employees can work: 

  1. When they are most productive
  2. Around their own emotional health needs
  3. Around family schedules
  4. Around the routines of people they may care for

If this is possible, employees may not feel as pressured by the multitude of demands on their life. 

Learning and development is key to employee wellbeing. As we learn, we discover different ways to do things that may make them easier, less time consuming or provide better results. Does your business offer employees’ access to learning opportunities? 
Get a real feel for employee wellbeing with an anonymous employee satisfaction survey. It will allow you to understand how pressured your workforce truly are. It is also an opportunity to understand if stressors originate inside or outside of work and how your business can support them. 
Are your managers trained to notice when someone on their team may be having a difficulty? Poor emotional wellbeing may manifest itself in different ways, employees may become withdrawn, work longer hours, become indecisive or experience physical symptoms like headaches or stomach issues to name a few. There are a wide range of symptoms of poor mental health and everyone is likely to be different. If management know about the indicators, training may provide them with the tools to speak to a person who may be struggling.  

If you are a manager, there is a lot you can do to encourage emotional wellbeing within your team. It is worth the investment. 

Ensuring your team is emotionally healthy will allow them to find the right balance between pressure and interest to be engaged, productive and happy. 

Too much pressure can lead to stress followed by burn out, where capable employees can no longer function due to stress. Too little pressure can lead to rust-out where employees no longer find their work interesting or challenging, leaving them feeling disinterested and unmotivated.  

So finding the sweet spot between the two really matters but how can managers help?

    1. Talk about emotional wellbeing and mental health in your team

Do you acknowledge or discuss mental and emotional health in your team? If the answer is no, you are not alone. But it is important if we as a society are to lift the stigma around mental health that we begin to discuss it more openly. A UK survey of over 40,000 employees who had a mental health problem foundonly half spoke about it at work. Start the conversation by announcing a greater focus on mental health and looking for ideas. 

2. Know organisational policy managing mental health 

Does your organisation offer support to employees who may be struggling with their emotional wellbeing? If there are people trained in mental health first aid, do you know who they are and how to contact them if there is an issue? What other supports does your business have in place, knowing all of this information is key to supporting your team should someone be having a difficulty.

3. Have one-to-ones with your team

Regular one-to-ones allow you to spot changes in people’s behaviour and also to ask them how they are doing beyond the usual small talk. This offers someone who may be having a tough time an opportunity to discuss it. It is still important to remember that there is a stigma around admitting to a mental health issue so it may take some time.  


4. Ensuring your team have a good work/life balance

Are your team asked to work over their standard hours regularly? Are out of hours calls or meetings commonplace? Over time working excessive hours can lead to stress. Work/life balance is key to employees' wellbeing. If you find your team working overtime most of the time, then there is an issue with: 

  • The amount of work allocated to your team
  • The resource your team has access to

Speak to senior management to find a better balance so you can get the most from your team within standard working hours.


5. Are deadlines realistic?

Deadlines are an important part of achieving a businesses shared goal. They are key to keeping complex projects on track. When they are realistic they set expectations, allowing employees to take control and prioritise their own work. When unrealistic deadlines are set, they are a cause of stress and may impact employees emotional wellbeing if they cannot be achieved or an employee has to go above and beyond in order to reach them. 


6. Do you praise employees for the work they do?

Do you remember to praise individuals or your team as a whole for a job well done? A study by Harvard Business School showed it may be well worth it. Teams that were praised for good work showed positive changes in their creative problem solving, performance under pressure and social relationships, all key to productivity at work. So next time someone does something well, remember to let them know. 

7. Is there clarity around responsibilities and expectations?

Do your team members know where their roles begin and end? Do they have clear job descriptions? If they have evolved over their time working on the team maybe this is something to revisit with your HR team. This ensures no one is being stretched too thin or being asked to take on more than they should be.

8. Lead by example look after your own emotional wellbeing

Last but by no means least, do you look after your own wellbeing? Leading by example is key when it comes to wellbeing and leadership. Ensure you have a good work/life balance yourself and manage your own workload so you can be the best version of yourself for everyone else on your team.


There’s so much to consider when it comes to improving emotional wellness in the workplace. Fortunately, much of it is common-sense based and a lot of it can be deployed without a significant amount of budget. If your business has expats working on assignment, our international health insurance also provides access to a multilingual expat assistance programme where they can access professional help should they need it.