How are you feeling?05/06/2018
May’s Mental Health Week (14 - 20th May) focussed on stress. It is a huge issue in the UK - a survey of 4,169 UK adults, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, showed that almost three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Research by the mental health charity, Mind, revealed that work is one of the most stressful elements of people’s lives - even more so than debt or financial difficulties or health issues. Commenting on this research, the Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer, said: "Work related mental health problems are an issue too important for businesses to ignore. Our research shows that employees are still experiencing high levels of stress at work, which is negatively impacting their physical and mental health.”
In 2016/17 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 40% of all work-related ill health cases and 49% of all working days lost due to ill health - costing the UK 12.5 million working days lost (HSE, 2016/17).
Mental health is having a huge impact on business. And while ill health is clearly a significant cost, investing in employee’s mental wellbeing can offer big rewards to business. As Patrick Woodman, Head of Research at CMI, says: “Happy and healthy employees are the most effective employees, so every employer should take mental health seriously”
It is evident that awareness of mental health is increasing, but we can all recognise a world where people with mental health issues face discrimination, both in and outside of the workplace, and can face challenges getting the help they need.
We have some way to go before people are as comfortable talking about mental health as they are physical health. And some way to go before employers recognise the responsibility they have to manage stress and mental wellbeing as much as the physical health and safety of their employees. But given the costs mental health problems and the benefits of having happy employees, this is an issue business cannot afford to ignore.
So what steps can you take to promote wellbeing in your business?
Help people to cope with change
Change can be very stressful for a lot of people but it is commonplace in most organisations. Involving people in the changes, making sure that managers are approachable and supportive and an extra focus on communication will help.
Encourage your staff to have a good work / life balance
We all need to work some extra hours sometimes but long hours, a lack of sleep and relaxation time can quickly take its toll and lead to irritability, lower productivity and poor performance. Lead by example - let employees know it is OK to ‘switch off’ when they get home and don’t regularly send them emails at midnight.
Invest in your managers
Bad management is a significant cause of stress and dissatisfaction at work. A more approachable and empowering style should lower stress levels as well as improve job satisfaction and productivity
Engage your employees
Staff who know where the business is heading, their role in getting it there and how well they are preforming will normally be much more engaged, have higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of stress.
Promote positive working relationships.
Bullying, harassment and negativity have no place in a happy workplace.
Support exercise and social events.
Physical activities and social events can help to boost staff health, team work and mental wellbeing.
End the taboo about mental health
Managers have to set a tone that enables colleagues to talk openly about mental health, to admit when things are tough, and need to be supportive when people experience mental health issues.
Penny Davis is an HR expert specialising in developing teams, change and transition management and scaling SMEs for growth. If you think she could help your business then get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org