It's about more than Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental health issues in the workplace can no longer be shied away from with 12.5 million working days lost every year due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.*
According to latest research from The O.C. Tanner Institute, which surveyed 476 UK working adults at companies with 500+ employees, nearly one fifth of UK workers (19 per cent) admit to being dissatisfied with their life. On top of this, 14 per cent feel as though their life is spiralling out of control and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) feel unable to cope with everything life may throw at them.
Stress and dissatisfaction amongst the UK workforce is becoming commonplace, with many feeling unable to deal with the pressures of everyday life. But how can organisations go about effectively addressing mental health? Here are my thoughts...
- Make mental health an organisational priority – Don’t just flirt around the issue of mental health as staff must be confident that you’re taking the issue seriously. This means taking the time to gain the buy-in of senior managers. If there isn’t an overall acceptance from the top-down that mental health needs to be tackled, then any initiatives will simply fall flat.
- Begin an honest and open dialogue – It’s vital to have open discussions around mental health. Encourage senior leaders to discuss times in their lives when they’ve battled mental health problems as this will help make it ‘acceptable’ for other members of the organisation to ‘open-up’.
- Promote a ‘stress-less’ environment - Recognise that stress can bring on mental health issues and so ensure this is dealt with by championing a calm and positive working environment. As part of this, endorse a good work-life balance in which long hours and ‘out of office’ emails are discouraged. You must also make staff feel appreciated and recognised for the effort they put in and ensure that your leadership culture is one of mentorship, advocacy and empowerment rather than control and power.
- Provide mental health training - Talk to your leadership team on how to approach employees if they think they may be struggling with mental health issues. You should also provide guidance on how they can manage staff who may be absent due to mental health problems.
- Communicate which mental health services are available - Make sure that there is clear communication about which mental health services are available to employees so they know how they can seek help. Also ensure there are options for employees to seek help anonymously.
Mental health in the workplace can be a tricky topic to tackle as it’s so often viewed as taboo, but it’s crucial to address it because it’s not going away. With all aspects of work being impacted by poor mental health, from sickness levels and productivity through to engagement. Let's make sure the conversations continue far beyond Mental Health Awareness Week!
* Statistics from Health and Safety Executive http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/
Robert is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD. HR Generalist turned European Managing Director in the SaaS world, he has particular interest in technology that enables thriving and well connected workplace cultures. Robert joined O.C. Tanner, the workplace culture experts, in 2014. Prior to this, he was the People Director for the English Premier...