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Why it Pays to take Mental Health Seriously in the Workplace

March 5, 2019

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Recent report by Mercer had revealed 64% of managers admit to prioritising the interests of their organization above staff wellbeing. Even more worryingly, just 16% of employees felt able to speak up about mental health issues to their manager.

Change can only happen when people speak out, and this is a significant issue that affects so many in the workplace and wider society. Numbers and statistics can provide a framework, but for every person battling with mental health, numbers don’t matter, what matters are the actions of others.

Within every business, there will be those who suffer in silence to the point that control is lost and the very act of getting out of bed becomes utterly overwhelming. Employees are still reluctant to share mental health information with their managers or bosses, seemingly for good reason. The stigma associated with mental health, being treated unfairly, becoming the subject of office gossip or compromising their employment terms are all legitimate fears.

To tackle this global workforce issue, John Williams, Head of Marketing at Instant Offices encourages employers to support their teams to speak about and prioritise mental health, promote a healthy work-life balance, reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues and introduce initiatives to support and encourage staff who choose to speak up.

Here’s what employers can do:

1.  Minimise the stigma: Instead of making employees feel like liabilities or burdens, employers need to take active steps to encourage conversations around these issues. Taking a mental health day or asking for support around mental health issues should not impact an employee’s reputation and how they are treated at work.


2.  Pay attention: The lack of training and sensitivity only works to perpetuate the culture of silence around mental health and wellbeing at work. Companies should be working to combat this by monitoring employee stress, encouraging communication and taking active steps to increase knowledge around the issue.


3. Be more flexible: There are several ways to boost employee engagement and happiness in the modern workplace. A growth in flexible working shows more businesses are responding. Introducing a flexible working option is one of the ways businesses can prioritise their employees’ personal needs while benefitting from their productivity boost, too. Data from LSBF shows nearly half of employees advocate for flexible working hours as a way to reduce workplace stress and anxiety, increase productivity, and to improve morale and engagement.


4. Introduce mental health initiatives: It is crucial to increase employee awareness of mental health at work, support employees at risk and take steps to support those suffering from mental health problems. Education is key, and strategies need to be tailor-made to suit each business and its needs. Aside from increasing workplace happiness with perks, time off and better communication, businesses need to look at long-term policies which advocate for better treatment for at-risk employees from every tier of the organisation.


5.  Manage via a coaching approach: Historically, tyrannical managers focused on ‘the numbers’ or ‘getting the job done’ have been the norm, but fortunately, the modern workplace has changed. Today, the manager who adopts a more holistic approach by focusing on the growth and development of their team, personally and professionally, will see greater results and engagement. Investing in a coaching approach has shown clear improvements across all areas and improved trust between managers and employees. Getting this balance right enables employees to speak about their levels of stress, their worries about their role and more.
 

In the modern workplace, smart employers are placing workplace wellness at the core of their business by recognising the importance of their staff. They are going beyond protocol, processes and profits to ensure individuals feel valued and supported. Wellness and workplace health initiatives are varied but include everything from serious interventions and counselling services to mindfulness training, flexible working and even options like yoga, time off and massages at work.

Placing health and wellbeing at the heart of business can help employers attract and retain talent, improve productivity and happiness, and positively impact the bottom line.

Educating the workforce on the availability of such programmes where they can find support in a confidential and respectful manner, will help to address personal challenges before they become overwhelming.

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