If you’ve spent any time exploring Workplace Mental Health Initiatives in the last few days, you’ve presumably noticed what a minefield it can be.
According to a study by Deloitte, 72 percent of workplaces have no mental health policy – the major reason for this being that mental health policies are often hastily born out of reaction to internal incidents or negative experiences within the organization, rather than already existing as a proactive and preventative measure. How engaged a workforce feels, and how well it is communicated with, are critical factors in an organisations’ performance. Engaged employees are good for business as research repeatedly demonstrates a positive link between levels of engagement, and performance, productivity, staff innovation, customer service, staff advocacy, and absenteeism. According to the latest figures from MIND, the mental health charity for England and Wales, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue each year. Mental Health America’s most recent report revealed the figures for the USA are one in five adults having issues, equating to more than 40 million Americans. If organizations doubled the percentage of their employees who have a best friend at work, they would realize fewer safety incidents, higher customer ratings and as much as 10% higher profit margins. Contrary to old-school business thinking, friendships increase speed and efficiency. People spend less time second-guessing their coworkers’ motives and intentions and more time having transparent conversations that lead to high productivity. Friends go out of their way for friends. We will all be touched by mental ill health at some stage in our lives and some of us live with a mental health condition. Leaders and managers must build their levels of confidence around mental health issues to better include people with mental ill health in our teams, and to enable appropriate support of employees during illness and recovery. Employers should walk the walk, implementing humane work schedules and workloads so that their people can recharge their batteries and come back to work fresh and focused.
How can you, as a business owner or manager of people, who is struggling with your own mental health challenges and stress, help your employees while also taking care of yourself? The same basic principles apply. First, acknowledge that you are struggling, that it is common and not something to be ashamed of. Second, seek help from resources in your company or through your health insurance plan or community. Mental health challenges don't often go away on their own and getting the right assistance can help you feel better faster. Examples of peer-to-peer groups within businesses includes physical – such as grief counselling groups and special interest communities – and digital solutions. These can be beneficial in connecting those who want to better understand their emotions with people who have had shared experiences. It is important to be informed about the fast moving make-up of pressures in our modern workplaces and the factors driving the mental health and wellbeing of the people working in them. A well-designed and effective workplace wellbeing (or mental health) policy and programme, which gives access to appropriate therapy and other support, can be invaluable. One of the major stumbling blocks for many employees who are suffering from mental ill health is the stigma attached to admitting you are ill. It is an age-old problem and one that HR staff have to address. An opinion on workplace wellbeing support is undoubtebly to be had in every workplace in the country.
During busy or high-demand times, you may be tempted to set aside your employee health goals. By doing so, you will only delay progress towards your broader mental health goals. Consider including achievements related to the mental health strategy in leaders’ evaluations. Document the outcomes. This will help keep leaders accountable. You might not want to discuss your mental health with your manager or work colleagues but you might need some support when working. This could mean counselling, mentoring or reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Paying attention to positive leadership and management styles, and stimulating a supportive atmosphere among employees, are actionable strategies for addressing employee mental health. A consequence of a busy work life is that your work life balance suffers and so does your health. You may experience a feeling of overwhelm, stress or depression. This then affects your work and home life. You may make mistakes, become unproductive, over react to issues and have difficulty with relationships. The culture around compartmentalization has thankfully evolved, and workplaces have become more “humanized” over time. We use our minds at work, and with that comes our experiences, triggers, emotions – our lives. But if you want to compartmentalize – and many do – consider what areas of your life you want to keep separate and be clear on that reason. It shouldn’t be because you feel you need to hide your mental health at work. Organisations can make sure their employee benefits package provides support for employers duty of care mental health today.
People not being supported with their mental health by their employers can have a knock on effect on other members of teams/organisations if problems are left un-managed e.g. if someone isn’t supported with the right adjustments to stay in work, they may need to take time off, meaning other team members have increased workload. There are also turnover costs from the recruitment and training new employees when someone is off sick from work or leaves the organisation Not flagging a problem as soon as it's spotted can be because an employee is scared of speaking out. Mental health disorders are on the rise worldwide, creating a crisis that goes beyond those who struggle and their families to affecting communities and society at large. In parallel, poor mental health — a state of suboptimal functional performance — is a growing concern for employers and employees. Participation in ‘good work’ will drive health and productivity improvements. Recent evidence shows that we have to get this right. A poorly designed or poor quality job where people feel insecure, overloaded or do not have much control over how they manage their work, will not deliver these benefits and can be more harmful to health than having no job at all. It might sound idealistic for your staff to embrace wellbeing initiatives and become more productive, healthier and happier. After all, if they don’t engage with your wellness programme then your money is wasted. Experts have noted that more initiatives fail than succeed because companies don’t have a game plan. Even though it may not be easy to become an employee-centric company addressing managing employees with mental health issues it is of utmost importance in this day and age.
Business owners have to give so much to talent that they are loathe to make any concessions for those who are denied this tag - those who are merely labour. The result is unconscionable income inequality. A certain level of pressure in a business environment is desirable. Pressure helps to motivate people and boosts their energy and productivity. But when the pressure someone is under becomes too much to cope with, that positive force turns negative and becomes stress. Being overwhelmed and overworked can also affect the quality of the work employees produce. Mental health goes hand in hand with physical health. Organize “wellness challenges” to offer group challenges and employee-to-employee challenges that include a combination of physical activity (such as tracking steps, setting mileage goals, etc.), and emotional wellness (mindfulness, work/life balance). Mental health is important for business. In the 21st century the mental health and well-being of your employees is crucial to the success of your organisation. But, how should you as an employer start to address mental health issues in your workplace? And what activities and policies do you need to set in place? For employers not investing in wellbeing initiatives, workplace wellbeing ideas can be a difficult notion to comprehend.
People with high levels of experience activators have less stress and better well-being, engagement and productivity. Staying healthy at work is about more than just diet and exercise habits. Prioritizing your mental health can help you stay healthy, happy, and live a longer life. Creating a workplace culture that supports mental health and enables people to seek help when they need it is important for all organisations. The duty of HR professionals is laid out perfectly by the tackle mental health website which provides a very handy checklist that is superb for HR staff. It includes advice to avoid using general phrases about working under stressful conditions as well as warning against an emphasis on soft skills and personality traits. A recent survey by Wellable found that “overall, employers are increasing their investment in health and well-being programs with more than double (35%) planning to invest more compared to those who plan to invest less (14%).” The survey also found that stress management ranked among the highest in terms of how many companies expect to invest more in this area. Discussing ideas such as Wellbeing for HR is good for the staff and the organisation as a whole.
There is more that employers can be doing to support mental health among the workforce. In particular, more can be done to tackle the stigma associated with mental health problems, increase awareness, and provide adequate training for employees. Distress is an issue that affects a major proportion of the workforce, whether people have experienced a mental health problem or not. Employers can play a more significant role in supporting employees through major life events which may include bereavement, problem debt, and relationship breakdown, which can cause or exacerbate mental health conditions. Find additional intel about Workplace Mental Health Initiatives at this Health and Safety Executive article.
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