This year Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 14 – 20 May 2018.
Within our organisations, we have so many opportunities to positively impact on mental health and wellbeing. Having supportive and caring line management makes a huge difference. We can use every interaction and conversation as a way of reinforcing we care and value people. One of the most profound things we’ve read about the link between workplaces and mental health is this
‘the person you report to at work can have more impact on your health and wellbeing than your own family Doctor’.
This statement rings true when you consider how important organisations and businesses are to the overall health of entire countries. Most people spend more of their lives at work than they do on anything else. The costs of poor mental health to UK businesses are huge, as well as to the wider economy. The Stevenson/Farmer report for Government on a review of mental health and employers ‘Thriving at Work’ revealed the extent of the problem. In 2017 poor mental health cost employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.
Alongside the very clear economic costs, there are immeasurable human costs associated with poor mental health. So many of these problems can be avoided through organisations adopting some simple positive steps. Here are some initial suggestions from Apex HR to consider:
Three Simple Steps
Given the scale of the challenges, what practical steps can employers take?
There are some simple ways to raise awareness within organisations. Add the subject of mental health to team meetings, review existing health and safety practices to see if they adequately cover mental health and wellbeing. Consider allocating mental wellbeing to the leadership portfolio of a Director, it always helps to have a senior leader who is passionate about this cause. Provide support for managers to encourage more conversations within their teams about mental health. Consider a range of training and education briefings to help break down any taboos and stigma that may still exist within workplaces.
Have regular discussions with team members about the stress levels associated within the role. Consider organisational metrics and rules, are they really required? So many internal KPIs and targets have developed over time but without a relevant value-added purpose. Challenge the status quo and see if internal practices and bureaucracy are empowering or hindering an individual’s ability to be effective in the job. Perhaps it is time to revisit internal practices, processes and measures to see if they are still fit for purpose? Encourage challenge to ditch outdated rules and procedures that may be holding people back. Providing autonomy and some control and flexibility over how the work is completed can be a great stress reducing exercise.
Conversations about mental health should be completely normal within a workplace. Given the amount of time individuals spend at work the opportunity to make a positive impact on individual lives is huge. This should start with leadership, if leaders can drive this change by being open about their own mental health it will set the tone for the rest of the organisation. Organisations should challenge their internal cultures to see if they are conducive for conversations about mental health to occur. Is there an open and supportive culture or is there a fear of raising mental health issues? Do employees feel supported by their organisations and would they be willing to share a mental health concern with their employers?
This is such an important subject, and sits right at the heart of great workplaces. Great organisations will always prioritise the individual needs of their people, and will treat everyone as a unique human being with the respect they deserve. Great organisations recognise that we are all human, and can all experience some difficulties and problems from time to time in our lives. They will not rush to judgment, but will instead explore ways of helping and supporting their people. They will be patient, with compassion and understanding. When we treat people in a caring way and show them we genuinely value them it can really make all the difference.
The Mental Health Foundation has lots of interesting information and resources to help employers if you would like to find out more information.