Measuring Mental Health Outcomes Can Help Reduce the Disconnect Between Employers and Employees
Recently, McKinsey & Company published their results from a national survey of employers and employees that provides insights into the mental health needs of the US workforce and how employers can best address them.
Their survey showed a gap between how employers think they’re supporting mental health and how employees perceive their mental health is being supported.
Most notably, 71% of bosses think they support employee mental health well or very well, while 73% of workers think their bosses may be “full of it” on that topic.
The authors recommend five different ways to close this gap: Make mental health a priority, enhance mental health supports, communicate available supports, cultivate an inclusive culture, and measure and hold accountable.
When it comes to measuring and holding accountable, they recommend reviewing claims or clinical analysis, conducting employee surveys or focus groups, creating lived experience panels, and implementing holistic workplace mental health assessment tools to evaluate benefits and programs.
One thing that consistently escapes focus when it comes to measurement is asking open ended questions about how employees feel. Quite possibly that obvious question is missed because it can be difficult to operationalize from an analysis perspective – because emotions change from day to day (or minute to minute!).
Just because emotions constantly shift doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask people how they feel.
Emotional reactions to business events have predictable patterns, are contagious, and can provide valuable insight on how the events impact the emotional wellness of all employees. When you ask people how they feel on a regular basis (we recommend daily), you can follow these patterns and see where both positive and negative feelings are spreading through the company.
How to measure emotions
There are a few dimensions of emotions that are absolutely quantifiable.
whether an emotion is positive, negative, or neutral
how positive or negative it is (intensity)
emoji keyboards can communicate 24 different moods (affect)
When you combine the business event with an emotional inquiry, you open up a whole new world of context that helps data become interpretable at a human level.
How reporting changes once you measure emotions quantitatively
For example, let’s say you hire an organization to implement a stress management program. You could easily follow up after the program with a survey to find out if participants thought it was helpful. In that case, you’re asking them to think back over an extended period of time and recall their reaction in a moment that has long passed. And your resulting report can say “80% of participants thought the program was helpful or very helpful.”
Alternatively, you could send “emotional pulses” for a period of time before, during, and after the program that assesses how people are feeling in the moment. Those responses could be used to calculate the Net Emotional Index over the course of the program. The resulting report would more accurately reflect that after the stress management program, the emotional state of the employees became more positive by 235%.
This moves your reporting from qualitative, memory-based survey results to quantitative, measurable changes based on data collected in-the-moment.
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