Hints & Tips Blog
The business benefits of supporting your employees’ mental health
Understandably this year health is at the top of everyone’s agenda. Allied to this there’s been a big increase in the awareness of the importance of promoting mental wellbeing, and of the need to support those who find themselves suffering from poor mental health.
Historically perhaps the ‘poor relation’ in the health world, support for mental health has also not been helped by a reluctance by some to talk as openly about mental health issues as they are perhaps a broken leg or even long term very serious ‘physical’ illnesses.
The pandemic has further increased the generalised levels of pressure, complexity, anxiety and stress people are experiencing at the moment. And to compound things further a very recent study by the University of Oxford concluded that 1 in 5 people who get coronavirus are likely to be diagnosed with a mental health problem within 90 days of being infected.
Given the large number of people potentially affected it is an issue that employers can’t afford to ignore. Even back in 2018 the OEDC published a report that estimated mental illness costs the UK £94bn a year, with a nearly half this being in indirect costs, i.e. those impacting on employers in terms of employment and productivity.
While recent positive news around a vaccine is a very welcome light at the end of, an admittedly still rather long, tunnel, we need to be aware that this is no silver bullet. Mental health issues triggered by the pandemic may well linger long after life has returned to something more like ‘normal’. And let’s not forget what pre Covid-19 ‘normal’ looked like – which according to the mental health charity Mind was that 1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year.
So, whether or not work is the cause of employees’ mental ill-health, acknowledging the issue and putting in place steps to help improve mental health in your workplace is fast becoming a business imperative. The good news is that even for smaller businesses there are some simple things that can be done to help.
Promote an open culture
As a business owner or senior manager your behaviour and approach has a big impact on your company’s culture. Making sure that impact is a positive one is imperative, and with many people still working remotely this should extend to your habits virtually and online, as well as any time in the office. Illustrating that you aware of the impact of mental health issues on both individuals and the company, provides a good platform for people to feel able to raise issues if they start to struggle.
Being open to admitting when you have felt stressed in the past, what led to this and what you did about it can not only provide useful suggestions, but also help alleviate the feeling of isolation people can feel and enable them to feel more able to approach their Line Manager if they need support.
Keep an eye on things that commonly cause stress
Increased or changeable workloads and lack of control over projects are proven causes of stress. As are increased levels of uncertainty and change. Transitioning to home working, back to work and then being thrust back into the second lockdown can take their toll. As can the additional potential pressures and complexities of “working from home”.
So keep in touch with people and not just in your scheduled work related check ins. An informal 5 minute ‘social’ call can create a better environment for people to feel more comfortable to share how they really feel. Don’t be afraid to ask open questions about how they’re feeling, how their family is doing or if they have any worries, work related or otherwise. If they feel you care about them beyond just being a name on an organisation chart they are more likely to open up. Spotting issues early means that you can offer support or put things in place to help alleviate the situation before a potential issue becomes a more serious problem.
We will cover more tips on how to help support mental health in your workplace next time.
Mental Health is a vital area for any employer to be mindful of, and perhaps one positive thing to come out of the pandemic is that more than ever before we can encourage it to be discussed more openly.
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