Mental health in the workplace is something that we have broached time and time again because the impact of emotional wellbeing is far-reaching and can be both positive and negative. A happy and healthy workforce is more productive, less apt to take time off and, most importantly, makes your working environment a far more enjoyable place to be.
Conor Todd, PR, marketing and content creation at FreeOfficeFinder, shares his thoughts on mental health
Mental health affects millions in the UK. The reasons for this are varied and complicated; however, it’s worth focusing on one aspect that may be playing a significant role when it comes to people’s wellbeing: the workplace.
Sixty per cent of employees cite work as the cause of, or a contributing factor to, a mental health problem – it’s importance should not be ignored. Mental health issues also have an effect on the economy – costing the UK £34.9bn last year, mainly through reduced productivity, but also absence and staff turnover. So, are employers doing enough for their employee’s wellbeing?
How do you feel?
A 2017 study on mental health at work found that nearly a third of employees believe their organisation does nothing to support those with mental health issues. Another survey revealed that nearly a quarter of employees felt that their organisation does not take wellbeing seriously. Taken together, these studies suggest that there’s a large number of employers that are doing little to support their employees’ mental health – and that some would even reject the notion that anything needs to be done.
There’s also evidence to show that when employees disclose the state of their mental health it’s not always managed very well. One study showed that 15% of cases where an employee discussed their mental health issues with a manager actually ended in those employees receiving disciplinary procedures, demotions or actual dismissals. It’s not surprising then that many people will ‘suffer in silence’, as opposed to finding help from their colleagues – especially those they see as closed or lacking empathy.
The issue at hand
A 2017 HSE report found that workload (44%) is the biggest cause of stress, depression or anxiety in the workplace. If managers continue to be perceived as unforgiving when it comes to their employees’ struggles, employees are less likely to go to them with problems, which exacerbates this problem. After all, if work is overwhelming, and talking to someone who can help you to manage this isn’t a possibility, then it’s unlikely that a solution which benefits the employee will be reached.
A manager’s perceived attitude towards mental health, then, can affect their employees’ performance. In such cases a shift in attitude is required on the behalf of the manager and this shift needs to be communicated to their employees.
Misunderstanding mental health
It must be noted that most organisations are doing great work to support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff. Mental health can be a difficult subject to discuss, and a manager’s own anxieties about raising the topic could be what makes them appear ineffectual or cold to employees.
It can be difficult to know how to properly raise a mental health issue with an employee, or to know if they would like you to discuss it with them – and, more importantly, to know how to discuss the issue effectively. Managers may simply be struggling with what is appropriate and good practice when it comes to their employees’ issues; these issues may often be personal, and a good manager would want to avoid embarrassing a member of their team.
How managers can do more for mental health
Employee wellbeing should be enough of a motivator for an organisation to consider helping their team through mental health difficulties. Creating ways of helping employees who are struggling will help ensure a happy workforce, less likely to take sick days and more productive.
For those managers who struggle to address their teams in relation to issues surrounding mental health, training is hugely advantageous. Learning how to notice when employees may be struggling, how to properly approach them and how to discuss the issue is of great benefit to both employer and employee.
Vital for helping managers of all kinds deal with the issue of mental health is the ongoing de-stigmatisation of the issue. It’s clear that most people will be somewhat affected by a mental health issue at some point in their lives, so treating it as the norm could reduce stigma and help communication within organisations.
Managers and the wider organisation need to make clear that they are open to discussions about the wellbeing of their employees and how they can improve matters. This, in turn, will make it more acceptable for employees to report issues and receive support and help when it comes to things like morale, workload or pressure. This will improve the engagement and productivity of the company as a whole.
There are many ways of supporting staff mental health and wellbeing, and ensuring a positive working environment and working culture; are you up to speed on this?