On average, we spend 90,000 hours of our lives at work. One third of our life, working. And the truth is, we’re all likely to experience mental health challenges at some point in our working lives.
Whilst conversations around mental health may have improved over the last three decades there’s still a stigma attached to the word. We could say that one positive that’s come from the pandemic is the necessity to talk about mental illness and the colossal impact it can have on both our personal and professional lives. But, we still have some way to go.
Protecting people and their mental health at work cannot be ignored. It’s vital that organizations put actionable strategies into place for every single employee.
So, to kick off Mental Health Awareness week, we explore 8 different ways that you can support your people.
In 2020/21 stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases in the UK. Costing UK business £2000 per employee or a staggering £118 billion per year. And that’s not even accounting for the 5 million that are self-employed, which brings a whole new level of pressure and stress.
The Great Resignation, questionably one of the biggest HR crises the world has experienced, is a great example of people finally prioritizing their well-being over work. With 47.8 million people (an average of 4 million per month) in the US in 2021, resigning from their jobs, citing; burnout, stress and a poor work environment as reasons for quitting.
Only 2% of the UK’s healthcare funds are spent on mental health strategies, leaving the burden on workplaces to pick up the slack. But the issue is that so many companies, including SME’s or startups don’t have funds to support this. Whilst those that have set aside a budget to support well-being, often don’t know where to start.
Investing in mental health is not a financial burden on a company but a positive investment in your people. A study from Harvard researchers reinforced the positive ROI from investing in employee well-being. Data showed that on average, every dollar spent on employee wellness saved employers $3.27 in health care spending and $2.73 from reduced absenteeism.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 8 ways that your company can support your peoples' well-being and mental health.
This will help address mental health issues in a holistic way. Training allows managers to give vital support and lets them understand the early warning signs of ill mental health within their team. Managers that have personally lived through a mental health struggle are a unique asset and should be an integral part of a working solution.
By having a zero tolerance policy on bullying or discrimination towards those experiencing issues, will send a strong message company wide. Discrimintation against mental health needs to fit under the same umbrella as differentiators such as race, gender or age and must not be tolerated. Put an anonymous whistleblower policy in place to help call out any bias or discrimination towards others. And make sure to include mental health strategies in your Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, covering not only stress, anxiety and depression but also grief, loss and loneliness.
Communication really is key to making your employees feel well supported. Establish mirror communication by encouraging leadership to talk about their mental health experiences. This will help boost employees to open up about anything that they’re experiencing.
Introduce educational and encouraging mental health content. There’s an abundance of free resources that you can share, we recommend these:
Use internal platforms to promote mindfulness, information on how to destress, disconnect or have better sleep. Make sure the content is digestible and short (maximum 10 minutes in length). Follow up with e-learning guides from third sector organizations, such as WHO, to help employees understand more about their mental health, how to stay well and how to support someone else. Digital tools are low cost, accessible and a great way to drive change.
Build a network of mental health allies within your organization to help to bridge the gap between both employees and the employer. This needs to work across remote and hybrid offices too. Offer mental health first aid training to champions to ensure they'll feel confident in spotting any early signs of ill mental health. Allow champions to share their feedback and thoughts when it comes to refreshing your company's well-being policy.
For those struggling with mental illness or maybe with side effects of medication, allow them to readjust their working hours if needed. If their role requires them to travel, allow them to travel one day earlier, to avoid early or late flights/travel options that might increase stress or anxiety. Excuse employees from post-work commitments, dinners or client functions. Alleviating this kind of pressure can go a long way in showing support.
Whether you’re a remote company, hybrid or an office based organization, workshops and webinars can be part of your Employee Assistance Program (EAP’s). Use National Stress Awareness month in April or World Mental Health Day in October, to help kickstart your events. There are plenty of specialists that can give advice on how to run these and more importantly what to include. Invite keynote speakers and wellness experts to give advice and insights on how to move forward in this area.
EAPs can take the form of counseling, referrals, or follow up services. Offering access to free therapy for both mental and behavioral conditions can help ti offset concerns about costs for acute situations. By encouraging employees to take advantage of these services, will help to drive prevention rather than cure.
Mental health, now more than ever, needs to be protected and supported. By destigmatizing mental health challenges, especially in the workplace, will help to foster a culture of trust, compassion and honesty, and surely we’re all here for that?!