Workplace Wellness

12 Mental Wellness Activities to Elevate Your Wellness Program

Written by Kate

Rising costs of living, political upheavals, and rapidly evolving workplaces have left employees reeling. As workplace burnout remains high, employee engagement is strained and mental health is nosediving. The 2024 Voice of the Workplace Report paints a grim picture:

  • 69% of surveyed employees report that their mental health has stayed the same or worsened in the past year
  • 61% have felt down, depressed, or hopeless over the past month
  • 68% have had trouble falling asleep over the past month

The good news is that the stigma has reduced surrounding discussions about workplace mental health. In fact, employers are increasingly aware that mental health matters: according to a recent SHRM article, 78 percent of organizations currently offer or plan to offer mental health resources in the next year. Also, many institutions and organizations, regardless of size, have workplace wellness programs aimed at helping employees feel better.

So, how can your wellness program help boost positive mental health at the workplace? Here are the top mental wellness activities to consider: 

1. Mindfulness and Meditation Sessions

Ruminating on the past or worrying too much about the future can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Mindfulness demands you simply live in the moment instead of worrying about what happened in the past and what may or may not happen.

This approach to life has many advantages. Research shows that mindfulness-based interventions can significantly reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in employees (Janssen et al., 2018). Mindfulness practices have also been linked to improved focus, emotional regulation, and job satisfaction (Good et al., 2016).

2. Yoga or Stretch Breaks

The health risks of a sedentary lifestyle are well documented: higher risks of premature death, increased feelings of depression and anxiety, heart diseases, etc. 

Studies show that workplace yoga programs can reduce perceived stress, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall well-being among employees. Stretching exercises have been associated with reduced musculoskeletal discomfort and improved mood. 

meditation and stretch breaks

3. Mental Health Workshops or Seminars

The first step in promoting positive mental health is disseminating helpful information to all levels of the organization. Educational interventions about mental health literacy have been shown to increase knowledge, reduce stigma, and promote help-seeking behaviors among employees. Mental health literacy programs can also provide practical coping strategies for managing stress and burnout.

4. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee assistance programs are a confidential “employee benefit program that assists employees with personal or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health and general well-being.” Research shows that EAPs can help reduce psychological stress and burnout. They also increase productivity and improve overall mental health outcomes. Confidential counseling services can help employees address various mental health concerns.

5. Wellness Challenges or Competitions

Workplace wellness doesn’t need to be…boring. Or punitive. Employees can have fun at work and still reap maximum benefits. For example:

  • Step Count Challenge: Employees can use wearable devices or smartphone apps to track their daily step counts. The challenge can be individual or team-based, with prizes or recognition for those who achieve or exceed their targets.
  • Healthy Meal Prep Challenge: Let employees share pictures or recipes of their healthy meal preps on a dedicated platform or social media group. The team can then vote for the most creative, nutritious, or visually appealing meals. 
  • Mindfulness Minutes: This challenge encourages employees to take short mindfulness breaks to reduce stress and improve focus throughout the day. 
  • Virtual Yoga or Fitness Classes: Organize virtual yoga, Pilates, or other fitness classes during lunch breaks or after work hours for your remote team. Employees can participate and earn points or rewards for consistent attendance.
  • Gratitude Challenge: Employees can share daily or weekly expressions of gratitude on a shared platform or during team meetings. This challenge encourages positive thinking, appreciating the good things in life, and fostering a supportive work environment.
  • Sleep Hygiene Challenge: Encourage employees to develop healthy sleep habits by tracking their sleep duration and bedtime routines. This challenge can raise awareness about the importance of quality sleep for mental well-being and provide tips for improving sleep patterns.

Friendly competitions can motivate employees to adopt healthier habits that ultimately lead to better mental health. These challenges can also foster a sense of community and support among colleagues.

6. Quiet or Relaxation Spaces

Sometimes all you need is a five-minute break in a quiet sanctuary to recharge. Access to quiet spaces in the workplace can lead to lower stress levels, improved focus, and better emotional well-being. These spaces provide employees with an opportunity for respite and self-regulation.

7. Flexible Work Arrangements

The traditional 9-5 work arrangement is gradually becoming a thing of the past as employers embrace remote work and hybrid arrangements. These flexible work options can help employees better manage their work-life balance, reducing stress and potential burnout.

8. Art Therapy or Creative Workshops

Engaging in creative activities like art, music, or writing can provide a healthy outlet for self-expression and stress relief. Art therapy has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and improve overall well-being.

9. Mindful Eating or Nutrition Workshops

Mindful eating can be a part of overall mindfulness, but it goes even further than just being grateful for the meal. The opposite of mindful eating is mindless or distracted eating and is associated with anxiety, overeating, and weight gain, according Harvard Medical School

Promoting healthy eating habits through mindful eating practices or nutrition workshops can improve overall well-being and reduce the risk of stress-related conditions like obesity and cardiovascular disease.

nutrition workshop

10. Outdoor/Walking Meeting

These involve holding meetings or one-on-one conversations while walking outdoors, instead of sitting in a conference room. Getting out into nature and engaging in physical activity during meetings can reduce stress, improve mood, and boost creativity and focus. It also promotes a break from sedentary behavior.

11. Stress Reduction Workshops

Ever heard someone say they were stressed but didn’t even know it? That’s more common than you can imagine. A stress reduction workshop led by mental health professionals, counselors, or certified instructors helps employees understand stress and also equips them with the tools to fight it. This proactive approach mitigates against worse problems like burnout and anxiety in the future. 

12. Resilience Training

The pace and intensity of technological innovation in the workplace have left many feeling as if they’re standing on sinking sand. From the rise of artificial intelligence to the increased adoption of automation, today’s world of work requires flexibility and agility. Without them, employees will be overwhelmed and stressed, which then leads to poor mental health at work. 

Resilience training programs aim to enhance an individual’s ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity, stress, or challenging situations. Developing resilience can improve mental well-being, increase job satisfaction, and reduce the risk of burnout. It equips employees with coping strategies and a growth mindset.

mental wellness training

Final Thoughts

As mental health continues to be an ongoing struggle in an uncertain and rapidly-evolving business landscape, it may not be enough to just celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. The acknowledgment that mental health is just as important to individuals as physical health is a great start, but true mental wellness requires a support system to achieve it. 

While sweeping changes may not be realistic, incorporating more mental health-focused wellness activities in existing workplace wellness programs can make a great difference and tip the scale of workplace wellness in a positive direction. Want more tips, ideas, and insights on how to make wellness programs work for you and your employees? Read more from our HR and wellness blog and feel free to book a call with one of our Benefits Experts.

Corporate Wellness Benefit Managers having a discussion while looking at an electronic tablet.

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