Did you know that mental ill-health is now the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK? Recent surveys showed that circa 40% of employees questioned stated that they had experienced a work-related mental health issue in the last year and that the estimated cost for mental ill-health in the workplace is over £1000 per employee per annum.
Organisations are waking up to the epidemic of mental health issues and ensuring that health and wellbeing are at the top of the business agenda. Corporate pledges are being made to specifically target wellbeing programmes that range from Mental Health First Aid accredited courses to mindfulness seminars. The success of these is tracked alongside other business KPI’s to demonstrate the impact on employees. The most positive of these initiatives focus on the prevention of the causes rather than how to resolve. Considering this in true health and safety terms – while it is great to understand how to bandage an injury, it is even better to look at how the injury could occur then ensure that it is preventable.
As employers, we have a duty of care to our employees, and it is important to understand the signs of work-related stress. Working long hours, unrealistic deadlines, and interpersonal relationship issues are all key contributors. Sometimes, however, problems outside the workplace are the cause of anxiety and stress, which is why regular one to ones or informal catch-ups are important as they can be tailored to understand any underlying issues and explore how they can be jointly dealt with to ensure the best possible outcome for those affected.
Employees too are being asked to actively engage in their own health and wellbeing through workshops promoting physical wellness, mindfulness and mental health awareness. These explore areas such as work-related stress and the pressure of life outside work. An important element of these workshops is to ensure that employees understand that there are strategies available to deal with issues including dealing with the stigma itself of mental ill-health, creating a positive learning experience and a non-judgemental workplace.
Creating an open and inclusive environment is important. By allowing people to share stories and talk openly allows others not only to empathise but to participate and actively contribute. Putting workplace stigmas to one side allows for open discussion without recourse and ultimately can have a positive and not a negative impact.
So, what can you do differently? By regularly engaging with employees, you can understand whether they are motivated, performing to target or overstretched and disengaged. Creating an environment of two-way feedback will allow employees to discuss issues and stop problems from spiralling out of control, actively promoting a culture where it is ok to talk. Champions at all levels of the organisation will demonstrate a commitment to the breaking down of any mental health stigmas and send a powerful message that it is ok to talk about mental health. The mental health charity MIND stated that 60% of employees said that they would feel more motivated at work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing.
Now is a good time to reflect on what you are doing that may be causing stress in the workplace. Add an item to team meetings where you can all openly discuss wellbeing and stress as a group and promote this open dialogue, thus embedding a positive attitude to enabling good mental health. Even better, enable your staff to talk openly to one another about their mental health and what effects it. Above all – engage, engage, engage.
If you would like to know more about the training GMD People offer around Wellbeing, Mindfulness Health check and Mental Health Awareness please contact Paul Canning 01327831371.