By Daphne Grech Cumbo – Wellness Coach – Up Your Level

If the pandemic has triggered disruption for what most expected to last a few months, the extension into years with all the “post-pandemic” side-effects and unrelated world matters, has really tested our resilience and capacity to keep it all together. 

It comes as little surprise that mental health issues at work are increasing. In this blog, I will be referring to a recent employee wellbeing survey, conducted by Misco earlier this year, and share points on what leaders can do to improve employee wellbeing in their organisations. 


Almost half of the employees (47%) described their stress levels at work as poor to very poor. 

Only 1% said that they are never stressed at work, 28% are rarely stressed yet 57% rated their job as often being stressful and for 13% of the employees their job is constantly stressful

In a previous article, Turning stress into strength, Julian focusses on the emotion which alights our stress receptors and can send them into uncontrollable levels. The emotion is fear. More precisely, the fear of NOT being in control. This state often makes us feel helpless and stuck in a situation with no way out. 

In fact, the 4 main attributions to stress which came out of the survey were: 

  1. Heavy workload
  2. Lack of support
  3. Low morale within the workplace 
  4. Tight deadlines

Half the respondents also felt that they are under pressure at work. 

These situations can be viewed by someone blinded by stress as hopeless. However, we always have an element of control over every situation. It does takes a sharp shift in mindset to see it and I invite to read 3 tips on turning that stress into strength here

Positivity & Connection 

Feeling a sense of belonging in the workplace is not a given. In fact 37% do not feel like they belong. Purpose is a primary motivator, yet more than a third (32%) do not feel purposeful at work. From the survey 39% of employees reported that they do not feel optimistic at work, while 32% described their mood as being low when they are at work. 

Do these employees let on their emotions? More than half (58%) would not know who to approach if they were struggling with mental health issues at work yet the majority (73%) feel that their colleagues would be supportive if they were struggling with mental health issues. 

The Honesty Culture 

I recently listened to a discussion on workplace culture organised by Life Force Awareness

My biggest take-away from the talk was the emphasis on creating an honesty culture, where people were allowed to let on to their colleagues that they are having a difficult day. 

In the US, it’s customary to greet each other with a “How are you” and rhetorically reply “I’m great”. Even if you just had a serious argument with a loved one before leaving home, had a car breakdown or just walked out of a meeting where the owners just shared some distressing news. 

In Malta we tend to veer on the more (pessimistic/cautious/safe ) side and most people reply with a “not bad” response when asked how they are, no matter their present state of mind or being ! 

So how honest should we be? Will a positive response set a good tone for the day even if you are not feeling it? Should you pour your heart out by the coffee machine and unload all your woes on the first person that asks? 

We are traditionally taught that we should leave our problems at home, or in the boardroom. The reality though is that we are human, and even if we can shift our mindset to work mode, we need, at minimum, the space to adjust to it. Letting on that you are not having the best morning, (without the need to set a negative tone or overshare) will give your team the opportunity to help by giving you what you need (which could just be, holding off your check-in meeting by an hour.)

What can leaders do?

1. Be (imperfectly) human

When leaders show their humanity, as in the above example, it creates the space for employees to be vulnerable and more likely to reach out when they need to. 

2.  Recognise & understand 

When mental health is low, respondents claim that they have trouble concentrating, are less patient with customers and colleagues, get into conflicts at work and take longer to perform tasks. Flagging these actions is usually easy. Taking the time to understand why this is happening is the harder, yet vital bit. Make the conversation happen, internally or with an external coach. 

3. Promote leisure time 

From the survey, 62% of respondents reported that they do not dedicate time to unwind from work with 76% stating that they do not see the need for it. If left untreated, overworking can lead to burnout. Sharing leisure activities you enjoy with your team and encouraging them to do the same, is a good way to show that you also take the time to unwind after work. Create a space for this eg a Friday afternoon “unwind” chat in person or virtually.  It will help the team get to know each other better, share ideas and eventually organise some of these activities to do as a team…

Closing the Gap

Almost all of the respondents (92%) feel that their employers have a role to play in their mental health. However just over half (56%) believe that their employer takes their wellbeing seriously and only 38% of employees feel that their organisation encourages them to talk openly about mental health problems. 

This creates a disconnect between the employee’s expectations and their perception on the organisation. The role of the employer is to create a supportive space and implement a culture that promotes wellbeing at work. 

Closing that gap requires trust, open communication, self-awareness and confidence building. These are typically the main pillars in our team development programmes which leave individuals more aware of themselves and each other, with better response mechanisms to situations as they arise. In the long run, improving harmony, building trust and strengthening bonds within the team.

If you would like to access the full survey results from the Employee Wellbeing Survey by Misco or if you wish to have more information about our team & wellbeing programmes, get in touch on [email protected]