Almost one in three people in the UK have experienced mental health problems in their place of work, according to a survey by health technology organisation, Mynurva. At the same time, more than 44% of these employees confessed to not discussing their mental wellbeing or any sort of mental distress with their employers. For both employees and the organisations that they work for, this is a huge problem.
While not every employee will start their jobs with a pre-existing mental health condition, most of them are likely to develop some during their professional careers. In most cases, this is due to negative workplace environments and stressful workloads.
This is what makes an active discussion about mental health essential for fostering an inclusive work environment, where people can thrive and achieve their potential without their mental health holding them back.
The idea of promoting mental health may seem a low priority in terms of business needs. But addressing it within your organisation can help you boost productivity by up to 12%. It also comes with a wide variety of intangible assets that will further help your business thrive. On the other hand, failing to support your workforce will only hold your business back.
Why We Need To Prioritise Mental Health?
For a company, its employees are its most valuable assets. However, over 70 million workdays are lost because of mental health problems annually. This equates to nearly £2.4 billion in employee productivity.
These numbers show that by not addressing mental health issues at work, employers fail to protect the value that their employees have to offer. Not only could you save billions of pounds by starting a conversation on mental health and offering support to your workers, but you could also boost employee morale.
And just like good physical health helps your employees stay strong and productive, their mental fitness also plays a major role in helping them achieve their productivity goals resulting in them completing their projects on time.
Most agree that the past several years have increased the stress load for people everywhere. Climate, economic and political changes have increased feelings of uncertainty about the future.
In addition, the mental health complications brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have amplified the need for mental health services and online health and safety training in the workplace. With the risk of the delta or other variants of Coronavirus spreading once again, the uncertainty of the pandemic has taken a huge toll on the mental health of thousands of employees.
During the pandemic, four out of ten adults reported symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder. This number is four times higher than what it was before the pandemic. This reveals that in such unprecedented and difficult times, mental health support to employees is more important than ever before.
How can you support the mental health of your workforce?
- Push Past the Stigma
While awareness regarding mental health is increasing every day, we still live in a world where many are still scared to talk about it. It is still very common for us to hide our true feelings because we are scared we will be judged or treated differently.
In order to push past the stigma associated with mental health, your organisation should make it clear that it is acceptable to talk about how we are really doing. If your employees fail to understand the significance of good mental health, any conversation or practice to promote a positive mental state will be beneficial in educating them.
Start by explaining to your employees how a good state of wellbeing, both physical and mental, can help them enhance their efficiency. Provide examples and real-world statistics to show the potential it has in driving success towards your business and their personal lives.
It is of paramount significance that the employees consider their workplace a safe environment where they can discuss their problems.
Many organisations now provide effective mental health awareness training to support their employees. Human Focus is one example of such an online training provider with an extensive library of programmes to support employee mental health and wellbeing
- Create a Forum for Discussion
Once you’ve pushed past the stigma, you can start the discussion on mental health with your employees. Begin by leading the conversation yourself so that more employees feel comfortable coming forward with their challenges. Set aside a regular time depending upon the number of employees you have so you can discuss mental health issues and allow your employees to voice any concerns they might have.
Try to keep these sessions as informal as possible so that your employees can use this forum for discussion and feel comfortable enough to reach out for help. You can also let employees know that they can schedule a private meeting with you to address their concerns at any time.
- Offer Support
If an employee reaches out to you about their mental health struggles, it is your job to offer them sufficient support. Join the national discussion on mental health and signify the importance of mental health in your organisation.
Add Mental Health Awareness Month to the official shared company calendar so that employees feel more comfortable sharing their feelings and that any stigma regarding mental health is eliminated. Organise mental health outreach programs and train individuals in your workplace on how to address mental health issues. Teach managers how to recognise symptoms of stress and depression within their co-workers so they can receive the encouragement needed to seek help.
Additionally, you can make mental health self-assessment tools available for every employee and educate them about different psychological conditions and their treatment options. You can also create dedicated spaces for recreational activities to help your employees relax such as break rooms, meditation and yoga sessions, and stress-reducing breathing exercises.
You can also train some select employees to be Mental Health First Aiders. These are specialised individuals with the tools to spot mental health issues in the workplace and offer solutions. They also simply provide someone for others to talk to during difficult times.
Employers are responsible for workplace health and safety, they must also assess for specific risks related to mental health.
For instance, for front-line workers who have to frequently deal with incidents of aggression, it is also important to provide violence and aggression training online to teach them how to prepare for and prevent such incidents that could have a severe impact on their mental health.
- Value Your Employees
Ultimately, remember that your employees are the backbone of your organisation. You must realise the significance they hold to your business and the valuable skills that they offer. Establish a culture where your employees feel appreciated so they are not undervalued and feel motivated to work better. This will eventually lead to them building trust and opening up about their mental health issues.
Improve your employees’ access to mental health care and develop compassionate and understanding relationships with them. Keep an eye out for signs of exhaustion and stress within employees to prevent burnout so that they don’t feel overwhelmed.
The Bottom Line
Your company’s current policy towards mental health will determine the boundaries of what your business can achieve. Investing in mental health initiatives doesn’t exclusively benefit the employees but also helps your business succeed. By committing to developing an approach to mental health within your organisation that fosters a culture of openness and offers proactive support, you are setting your business up for success.
However, this is just the first step. The next is implementing your approach by training yourself and your employees about common mental health conditions and their management. There are numerous tools out there that are available for you, such as basic Mental Health Awareness training for your frontline workers, as well as Mental Health First Aider training which will enable certain staff to be trained in helping others. This will ensure you are able to recognise signs of mental distress and create a positive workplace culture that enhances your employees’ performance.