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At Work, Mental Health Matters

Physical or mental, we all need to look after our wellbeing. Business leaders are now beginning to fully understand that mental health at work has a huge impact on productivity, efficiency and performance.

Physical or mental, we all need to look after our wellbeing. Business leaders are now beginning to fully understand thatphysical and mental health at work has a huge impact on performance, and therefore on the productivity and efficiency of the organisation.

Wellbeing is good for business and poor mental health is costly

Around 300,000 workers lose their jobs each year due to various mental health issues. The report puts the cost of this, combined with lost productivity and performance through poor mental health, at £42bn a year for UK employers.

The productivity and efficiency gains from fostering employee well-being, however, make it good for both employees and the organisation. Promoting mental wellbeing can help prevent stress and create positive working environments where individuals and organisations can thrive. Good health and wellbeing, particularly mental wellbeing can be a core promoter of resilience, employee engagement and organisational performance.

However, wellbeing initiatives often fall short of their potential because they stand alone, disconnected from 'real business'. To gain real benefits, employee wellbeing priorities must be integrated throughout an organisation, embedded in its culture, leadership, and people management.

The people profession is in a unique position to drive this forward. We need to convince senior managers to make it a priority and ensure that line managers accept and uphold its importance.

Coronavirus has raised employee wellbeing up the agenda

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised employee wellbeing to the top of the business agenda. Employers now play an even greater role in safeguarding their employees, from the risk of infection by introducing the new public health measures like social distancing.

Mental health is a particular challenge

The implications of the virus outbreak for everyone’s health and wellbeing during and after the pandemic are significant, and this includes their mental health. As well as worries about becoming ill, many employees are isolated, many others face income or job loss, while working parents must juggle Children, caring for relatives, neighbours, and work (this is no mean feat! having a two-year-old when nurseries were closed and working was difficult, to say the least, but hey! what better way to learn how to juggle whilst spinning plates on your head and a paintbrush in your mouth!). It has taken its toll on many people including myself.

What to consider to support mental health at work

Formal mental wellbeing support mechanisms

Employers should ensure they have a more holistic framework in place not only to support people’s physical health and safety, but their mental health too. Sources of help include counselling, employee assistance programmes and having trained mental health first-aiders.

Line managers are critical

More importantly, perhaps, line managers need support and guidance so that they can support their teams, create a psychologically safe environment and have sensitive conversations with individual team members. Line managers should enable their team to have a good self-care routine with a healthy approach to diet, relaxation, and sleep. Remember we are all in this together!

I know that there is strong evidence that feeling close to and valued by, other people is a vital human need, which is why we need to take a little time to say thank you and appreciate one another more, as it impacts greatly on our mental health and wellbeing. How often do your line managers recognise their people?

Social relationsips matter

Social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing as well as a buffer against mental health dips for people of all ages. Therefore, we saw a dramatic decrease in mental health and wellbeing whilst in lockdown, where we were finding any and every way to connect with people virtually or through a window. So, how could HR leaders support their people, mentally, physically, and even financially try to help their people get through especially challenging times?

Meaningful work is essential

Considering how much time we spend at work; it is not surprising that workplace environments and culture affect our mental wellbeing. Smart employers know that organisations perform better when staff are healthy, motivated, and focused. But it is also important employees feel like their work is meaningful, providing purpose and connection to their values, as well as being valued and well supported. As well as feeling better, they are likely to be more committed to the organisation’s goals.

Communication is key

Employers and employees should make the most of their internal communications channels, for example, you can raise awareness through blogs, factsheets, useful weblinks, and FAQs. You can also use your marketing for things such as posters, noticeboards, staff newsletters, magazines, and intranet pages to get the message out. Maybe encourage mental health champions? getting people at all levels talking freely and openly about mental health sends a clear message that you will get support if you’re experiencing a mental health problem.

Get off to a good start

To show your commitment and ensure that your staff are given the right information on how to manage mental health and what support is available to them, include it as part of an onboarding program. Link other programmes, such equality and diversity training to mental wellbeing.

Take an oganisational perspective

While the recommended methods of reducing stress mainly involve solo activities and exercises such as mindfulness, yoga, and meditation, I think if you encourage workers to invest in their happiness together this could be the solution to combating the biggest cause of stress and loneliness. Making sure you’re looking at wellness from a complete perspective and give reasonable weight to each of the elements that are involved, as opposed to doing the token stuff you read in a magazine article like offering fruit. Sometimes fruit is not enough.

Use data to understand your wellbeing needs

It may be difficult to find new or different ways to innovate your wellbeing initiatives amidst tightening budgets and a lot of uncertainty, but I think the right wellbeing programs can reduce absenteeism and decrease your overall business costs, help you build a healthier and more engaged workforce.

We provide employee feedback solutions that help you understand how your employees feel about their own wellbeing and how this is supported at work. These can be run as either Pulse surveys or a larger survey to provide a broader but larger set of people data.

Ultimately, we can help you understand how you can spend your wellbeing budget effectively, make meaningful impacts, and allow you to personalise your offering to have the biggest impact on your people.

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