There are so many reasons why large enterprises and SMEs are placing more emphasis on mental health in the workplace, especially as this topic is still very much seen as taboo in the corporate landscape. However, it’s really reassuring to see more and more organisations are getting involved and promoting a variety of initiatives for employees to feel comfortable broaching the subject with their peers and more importantly, their managers.
Mental health issues can have a plethora of negative effects on employees and employers alike. The rate of employee absenteeism rises, more people call in sick, the morale in the team is down, productivity levels take a hit, and the level of performance remains at a low. Passion and motivation are not present, and this can have a domino effect across the board. According to PWC, 40% of employees do not feel comfortable raising the issue of mental health with an employer or colleague. Mental health charity, Mind, state that mental health issues such as stress is the number one cause of absence in the workplace.
5 effective ways to help tackle mental health:
1. Work-life balance
The euphoric work-life balance which everyone speaks about! As a business Director or Team Manager, really encourage your employees to work an 8–9 hour workday; as burnt out and resentful employees are not productive and efficient, and can cause more damage in the long-run, both personally and professionally. Companies need to ensure that their employees are given realistic and manageable workloads that don’t require afterhours every day and over the weekend.
It is unsustainable for employees to feel extreme pressure and stress on a regular basis, and this in turn will create a lose-lose situation all round. Employees should be able to have realistic boundaries between their work and home lives, and that needs to be respected to maintain good mental health, without work-related anxieties.
2. Offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
Companies can show a duty of care to their employees by offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). As a fully employer-funded benefit, an EAP offers an reasonable way to make sure your employees have access to effective support for both personal and work-related problems, such as alcohol/substance abuse, bereavement, marital problems, mental health, and work-related anxieties. An EAP can have vast benefits including reducing employee sick leave, retaining top caliber staff, boosting performance and productivity as well as improving employee wellbeing.
Organisations who offer an EAP, generally have a holistic approach to overall wellbeing, as they recognise that problems can spill over into all areas of life, including your work. What makes an EAP unique, is that employees can speak about and get expert advice on all issues and problems, not just those which have a direct impact on work performance, but to encourage their wellbeing as a whole.
If employees are experiencing any work-related or personal difficulties which is causing depression and anxiety, this can severely affect their working capacity and will increase absenteeism. It goes without saying that your employee morale will plummet, and this has the potential to have a domino effect, which can impact the overall corporate culture like wildfire. There are various options when it comes to selecting an EAP for your business, and they can include everything from telephone helplines, formal telephone counselling, post trauma support, GP Call back and medical advice, an online Health Portal, online Health Assessments and online Personal Coaching Tools (and more).
3. Offer flexible working
Flexible working hours has the potential to be very advantageous to you, your staff, and the overall business. Flexibility needs to take into account that this may look different for each member of their team, however this can promote productivity, team morale, and keep operations running smoothly. It does require management to fully trust and respect their employees to get the job done in the specified times, and this, can improve one’s confidence and mental wellbeing by feeling a valuable part of the bigger whole.
For some employees, offering flexibility and flexi-working may be more beneficial than an increase in salary. Giving employees an element of freedom to come in later and leave earlier, or the option to work from home can help reduce stress and anxiety in more ways than one and can often promote productivity. In today’s times when employees are working from home or hybrid working, there is still an opportunity to offer further flexibility, be it to attend personal appointments, do school rotas or help with home-schooling. Sometimes this speaks louder than words and can assist in reducing unnecessary stress and poor mental health, increasing efficiency, and reducing staff (real and faked) illness.
4. Wellbeing and wellness benefits
A more sustainable longer-term solution to tackling mental health and wellbeing in your organisation is to introduce ongoing health and wellness benefits and perks for your team to enjoy both inside and outside of working time. A healthy body can aid in a healthy mind, so lead the way to a healthier workspace which can most definitely tackle mental health and alleviate any additional stressors.
This is not a one-size-fits-all approach but can be tailored to your specific business and bespoke for your employees dependant on demographics and geographics. For example, you can offer discounted gym memberships at various gym chains or get an in-house Yoga and Pilates instructor to come into the office on a weekly basis and do a session for your teams. You could offer free / discounted memberships to meditation Apps, such as HeadSpace and Calm. When employees are back in the office, have a healthy snack station and encourage team activities, such as bootcamp in the local park to ping-pong competitions in the boardroom, the list is endless…
5. Wellbeing incorporated into company cultures and values
Often a corporate culture revolves around tangible elements such as productivity, output, and employee behaviour. The value of creating a culture that lives and breathes holistic (with a focus on) mental health and wellbeing should be ingrained into the company’s philosophy and respective managerial approaches.
If values such as support, care, healthy mind, recognition, zero-judgement, openness, and acceptance are instilled from the get-go, a culture has the potential to be more conducive to wellbeing, where employees may find it easier to open up about issues which are hindering their day-to-day lives.
In addition, it’s important for leadership and HR teams to provide their departments and subsequent employees, no matter their hierarchy, with proper training and education around mental health issues. Firstly to reduce the stigma attached to it, and to provide team members with the tools and support to deal with it. This can range from simple awareness raising initiatives to teaching managers how to spot symptoms and know how to deal with them.
Is mental health a priority in your business? What initiatives have you launched and given to your employees?