Mental health in the workplace

For many people work is seen as an important part of their lives. A large portion of our day is spent at work and it’s estimated that the average person will spend at least 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work.

Throughout the working day there are numerous challenges which individuals will have to face, and it is fair to say that your job can have a big impact on your mental health.

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High Performance Headlines

  • Mental health problems are associated with large costs for employers
  • In 2015 mental health problems were found to have led to approximately 17.6 million days sick leave. That is 12.7% of the total sick days taken in the UK
  • When people are stressed we know that there is often an imbalance between perceived demands and perceived ability to cope
  • Organisations have a responsibility to build a mental health friendly workplace for employees to thrive

The Full Viewpoint

Toxic work environments can be detrimental to an individual’s mental health and factors such as pressure, burnout and work-related stress can cause people to take time off work. In the short term this leads to people feeling more anxious, vulnerable and stressed and in the long term this can have a negative impact on people returning back to work.

When people are stressed we know that there is often an imbalance between perceived demands and perceived ability to cope. For many people it can often be overwhelming to deal with the pressures and stressors of work and without the right coping tools in place there is an increased likelihood of mental health problems developing.

To minimise the chances of work having a such a negative impact and to maintain good mental health it is important that people are prepared and ready to manage the different challenges and conditions which they face on a daily basis.

This is an opportunity for the world of work to make a difference; for the world of work to ensure that it is not contributing to employee’s poor mental health; for the world of work to ensure that people are fit for purpose and as ready as possible to meet the demands they face every day.

For employees to thrive and for organisations to build a mental health friendly workplace it is important that businesses focus on creating the holistic readiness of a person – equipping them in every way to be prepared to meet the demands they face.

So, how do you do this?

Here are 4 steps that you can start taking as a business to support your employees to be as ready as possible to manage their work demands and build some simple coping skills:

1. Make sure people are equipped to do their job and supported to keep getting better

First of all, take a proactive approach to mental health. So, instead of only giving people tools to cope when they’ve reached their current limit, get into the habit of supporting everyone to be as prepared as possible as often as possible. Once you’re doing this, regularly checking in with people about how they’re doing and how they’re feeling becomes part of how you work and how you look out for each other. This means that as a company you start to learn together about how stress and pressure show up, what helps people cope, as well as what support they value and need.

2. Creating a culture of openness of asking for support

Next on the list of creating a mental health friendly workplace is making sure you’re actively creating an environment where everyone is comfortable to talk about any problems they’re experiencing. Leaders are particularly important in this area to both role model the sharing, but also to regularly create the opportunities for sharing and open conversations where support can be sought.

3. Having a great attitude towards rest, recovery, holidays, nutrition, hydration, working hours

The body is an important influence on mental health too, so your commitment to having a proactive approach to energy levels, rest/recovery, and all elements of physical health is key. Encouraging, or even mandating employees to take regular breaks is an easy way of signposting your commitment to physical health. There’s loads of evidence too that shows the benefits of being active throughout the day, taking exercise and this supporting good mental health. Equally, maintaining a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated supports positive mental health, so all in all, you can make a big difference by making sure you’re working with everyone at work to be great at all of these things that influence physical health.

4. Have easily accessible sources of support for when people are struggling.

Just like every organisation has First Aiders trained to provide support when needed, it’s now much more common to see Mental Health First Aides too. Where possible, provide training for everyone around Mental Health First Aid and then make sure there’s helpful resources around the business that people can pick up and use when they need them. Give your leaders and managers specific training so that they feel confident to be the first line of support to the people they’re working with if needed. The main point here is to make sure that everyone knows where to get support from and how to get it.

Inevitably, there are more steps that you can take, and will take. However, there has never been a better time to get started with all or any of the above. There’s many organisations that can help you move to action and there’s also many other companies who have their mental health in the workplace initiatives well under way who you can connect with to find out more and learn from. We know the benefit of this work will pay you back in any number of ways, and give the proportion of our lives we spend at work, this is a great way in which you can make sure that your business truly is a force for good.