The last two years have been a tumultuous roller coaster as the world came to grips (and still continues to deal) with a global pandemic, racial injustices and political divide. In response, 2020 was the year companies began to put more focus on diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging (DEIB) programs and mental health support. While late, nevertheless it was good to see organizations held accountable for walking the walk on diversity and mental health. We are also starting to see greater awareness of how DEIB and mental health intersect — they are not mutually exclusive. You can’t talk about one without the other.
While we’ve seen even more progress in 2021 — for example, a vast majority of c-suite executives (88%) and HR leaders (86%) think they're doing a good job when it comes to mental health — 2022 will be the year companies need to address new and existing challenges they’ve brushed to the side to make sure they are supporting the wellbeing of their employees.
Here are the next obstacles they’ll need to overcome:
Get Real: Expecting Employees To Be Their Full Self At Work Is A Pipe Dream
The idea that we want people to feel comfortable and show up as their full selves to work is a fantasy. Most people only show that side of themselves to a few people in their life, like their partner, select family members or a close friend. Rather than expecting people to show up as their full selves, companies need to give employees the space to show up in whatever way they feel comfortable. Employees want to come to work without fear of judgment and don’t expect or need to be their “full selves” at work. Businesses that continue to reinforce this notion will be called out for being performative and unrealistic in 2022.
Support Is Not Enough. Leaders Need To Be Policy Changemakers.
Companies are innovative — from developing electric cars to personal internet satellites — but still haven’t figured out how to support and advocate for their workers. Why the gap? A lack of resources and commitment. To truly support its workers, we’ll see more companies acting as policy changemakers. Juneteenth is a good example. It was always a holiday, but after a few companies made it a company holiday in 2020, others jumped on the bandwagon and it finally became a federal holiday in 2021.
Companies will continue to enact change at the policy level in 2022, but to really be successful, they need to allocate more resources to it.
Get Up, Stand Up: Employee Activism Will Become More Vocal In 2022
The Great Resignation was the first wave of employee activism, driven by workers feeling fed up about being undervalued at work. But in 2022, we’ll see a new wave of activism in the form of protest if employers revert back to their pre-pandemic benefits. In a recent study we conducted, we found that nearly two-thirds of leaders plan to revert back to their pre-pandemic mental health strategy, even though 80% of them acknowledged the importance of providing this support. If that happens, expect workers to be less passive than they’ve been during the Great Resignation. Instead of silently quitting, empowered employees will speak up and protest if employers are providing insufficient benefits in 2022.
While we’ve seen great progress when it comes to companies supporting DEIB and the mental health of employees, more still needs to be done. If we’ve learned anything from movements like The Great Resignation, it is that the power has shifted into the hands of employees — and rightfully so. No one knows better about what employees want and need than the employees themselves, so it’s time that companies actually start to listen to them — and I mean all of them — to ensure a culture and workplace where everyone feels supported. 2022 will be that year.
Dr. Jessica Jackson is a licensed psychologist and global DEIB Care Lead for Modern Health.