A recent study by Slater and Gordon revealed that employees take four days a year off work for mental related issues, e.g. anxiety, stress, seeing a counsellor, however 55% tell their bosses that the leave is for physical ailments. That’s a pretty shocking statistic, more so because of the mentality that employers might not understand the need to psychologically recharge and the worker fears that will be judged, demoted or sacked. Astonishingly, the research also found that 14% of employees who told their boss about their mental health were told to “man up”.
The Impact of Work-Related Stress
Quite often people hide challenges they may experience daily. Sometimes they themselves are even unaware as to why they are not working as effectively or productively, which often leads to symptoms being unaddressed and developing into more serious clinical conditions.
If left un-dealt with, these conditions significantly hinder a person’s ability to lead a normal life, which includes doing their job to the best of their potential. The knock-on effect of this not only puts pressure on the individual, but also on their co-workers which results in increased work-related stress across several staff members.
In fact, an overwhelming 70 million workdays each year are lost due to mental health related issues in the UK and Ireland, which costs employers approximately €2.7 billion per year.
Understand Mental Health
Mental health covers a broad spectrum of symptoms which affect every individual differently, therefore it is important to have an overall understanding of how employees are coping in the workplace.
Mental health can often be seen as a weakness. It is not. The Government’s Department of Health states that one of four will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives. Employers need to support staff members who might be under pressure from mental health, as employees are more likely to stay in work or return to work after a short absence which reduces long term absenteeism in the company. As well as this, employees with positive mental health will be more productive, work well alongside colleagues and adapt to changes that may arise in the workplace.
Improve Mental Health in the Workplace
Change doesn’t happen overnight but announcing the commitment to promoting positive mental health in the workplace is a great place to start. Recognising certain areas of the business which might lead to mental ill health is important, and this can be done through gathering information on employee turnover, staff absence and variations in employee performance.
Developing an action plan to normalise the subject and to encourage staff to speak to management about their mental health will ensure improvements aren’t left by the wayside. This could include:
- Identifying why the company is committed to promoting a positive working environment and what the objectives are to this plan
- Organising different activities and significant messages to aid in educating staff and managers as well as removing any stigma around the topic
- Developing and implementing support for staff who may be experiencing mental ill health
- Producing a mental health policy which includes information on how staff get support and information when required
It is vital for managers to be trained in spotting mental ill health symptoms and how to support staff members should they require it. Having the confidence to approach such personal matters is invaluable. Once everything is in place, inform employees on what the company is doing and ask for feedback on possible improvements. One to ones, team meetings or staff surveys are a great way to get staff member thoughts. Above all, let your staff know support is there. Many people who suffer mental ill health isolate themselves and try to work harder which makes the situation deteriorate. Don’t let them fight stress at work alone.
Mental Health Apps of Interest
Below are some mental health apps which may be helpful to both managers and employees. These can be offered through an employer program or accessed by individuals.
- Woebot – Think through situations with step-by-step guidance from Woebot using methods from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
- Thrive – A range of support in one app which includes relaxation techniques, thought training, sleep improvement and goal progress tracking.
- Headspace – Hundreds of themed mediation sessions on stress, sleep, focus and anxiety.
- Unmind – A B2B workplace mental health platform which empowers organisations and employees to measurably improve their mental wellbeing.