How Does Workplace Diversity Impact Mental Health?

Our first international guest post from Dr. Arturo Osorio. Dr. Arturo Osorio is a licensed physician practicing in Nicaragua. Dr. Osorio went to Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (León), where he got Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery Degree. He has been practicing medicine in public hospital and private clinics since 2018.

Workplace diversity is generally understood to mean having a workforce that has a wide mix of employees of different races, religious faiths, sexual orientations, and genders. But true diversity also has to include perspectives, viewpoints, and cultural backgrounds. Creating and managing a diverse workforce can be challenging, but the pursuit of diversity balanced by merit can pay great dividends to an organization’s productivity and the mental health of its employees.

Benefits of Having a Diverse Workforce

Indeed for Employers lists many benefits of having a diverse workforce. According to one study by social scientist Adam Galinsky, employees who have a close friendship with someone from another country tend to score higher on creativity tests. Because diverse employees bring different experiences and backgrounds to the table, they make better decisions.

Indeed indicates that 55 percent of people looking for work believe that diversity and inclusion at a company are extremely important. Companies that value gender diversity is 15% more productive than those that don’t and 17% percent of people who are looking for a job report these qualities are factors that create feelings of connection during the interviewing process. All in all, we can assure:

  • Diversity in the workplace enhances employee loyalty and retention, cutting down on turnover because of enhanced employee engagement.
  • Diversity and inclusion in the workplace enhance a company’s reputation. 

Diversity in the Workplace and Mental Health

The Harvard Business Review highlights diversity, inclusion, and mental health in the workplace. Workplaces that promote diversity and inclusion have noted a decrease in stress and employee burnout. Overall, though, studies have noted an increase in employee attrition, especially among younger employees. Members of racially unrepresented groups as well as LGBT people are more likely to report mental health issues. Left untreated, mental health disorders can result in substance use disorder or other adverse effects. 

Cultureplus consulting suggests that a diverse, inclusive workplace enhances the well-being of employees, especially those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Employees in a diverse, inclusive workplace are twice as likely to have career development opportunities and ten times as likely to perform effectively than those in workplaces that do not value such qualities.

Creating A Culturally Diverse Workplace

Some people think of workplace diversity as creating several slots and looking for people of appropriate identities to fill them. But a hiring manager has to overcome inherent and often unrecognized biases in making hiring decisions that balance diversity and merit. A recent article in Commonwealth suggests many techniques, including reading resumes that have names and other identifying information blacked out and performing a written interview rather than an in-person verbal one. The article also suggests expanding a candidate search beyond one’s usual networks to places like culturally-based professional groups and traditionally black universities. These tactics all ensure a wider net is cast and candidates who may traditionally not be considered have an equal chance at the job.

Managing a Diverse Workforce

One of the most important parts of managing a diverse workforce is accommodating a variety of needs. A manager will have to consider the norms of other cultures when making decisions. Small Business Chronicle presents some examples of some of those problems.

Muslims may need halal options, and Orthodox Jewish may require kosher alternatives in cafeteria menus. And employees from certain cultures may find it normal to arrive late to work or decline to shake hands at meetings. Being aware of cultural norms makes it easier to accommodate the needs of your employees.

But before you accommodate an employee, you have to learn about them. Don’t stereotype people based on their country of origin or religion. Some may define themselves as Jewish, but not keep kosher. Instead, ask them questions about their needs and go from there.

The next step is to accept feedback from employees after you’ve made a change. If you aren’t open to criticism, you’ll continue to make faux pas that could alienate your diverse team. One of the purposes of having a diverse workforce is to bring in a wide variety of perspectives. But those perspectives won’t benefit you if you don’t listen to them. 

Regard for reducing workplace stress, and in turn, also decreases stereotyping and prejudice among employees. Workplace stress can lead to a loss of self-esteem, which leads to bias as a defense mechanism. Thus, not only does diversity and inclusion decrease workplace stress, but decreasing workplace stress promotes diversity and inclusion, in effect, a virtuous circle.

The key to promoting mental health in the workplace is a culture of inclusiveness and communication. When employees perceive that management cares about their well-being, no matter what their cultural background happens to be, they tend to be more productive and less likely to suffer from stress and burnout. Diversity, inclusion, and attention to employees’ mental health turn out to be a win/win all around.

Sources – Workforce Diversity: A Key to Improve Productivity – 5 Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace – “Going Out” of the Box: Close Intercultural Friendships and Romantic Relationships Spark Creativity, Workplace Innovation, and Entrepreneurship – It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work – Non-Faith-Based Addiction Rehab – How Does Employee Well-Being Link to Diversity and Inclusion – Building a True Meritocracy: The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion – How to Manage Diversity in a Workplace


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