The days when mental health issues were seen as big ‘no entry’ sign are long gone and employers have got wise to the fact that mental health is just as important as physical health.
On a practical level people who are suffering with stress, depression or other mental health problems are unlikely to be productive and more likely to make errors. However, it’s much more than trying to get more from your staff. An employer that actively addresses mental health issues and makes an effort to promote a positive environment will always get the pick of the best employees and people will actually enjoy coming to work.
We see people suffering from burnout simply because they feel that they have to burn the candle at both ends to keep their jobs. Ambition can put the blinkers on – until it’s too late and the damage is done.
These are our top tips to help your employees to maintain a good state of mental health.
While you can’t force people to behave in a particular way, you can create an environment that is supportive, inclusive, and ensure that the workplace is where employees feel respected, safe and valued.
These might include employee assistance programmes, mental health hotlines, online therapy services, or other mental health benefits. Everyone suffers from stress sometimes – and it may not be that work is the cause. Being able to access someone to talk to confidentially, whether that’s a counsellor or a therapist is invaluable. Most people are reluctant to talk to their boss, in case that damages their work relationship, so a third party option makes a significant difference.
It’s not the 1980s where working late, coming in early and taking no holidays was a badge of honour. Today employers know that this just means they get a burst of action before each person burns out, sometimes in a spectacular fashion. Instead, a good employer will encourage employees to take breaks – because that refreshes them and produces better outcomes. They expect their team to take time off and establish boundaries between work and personal life.
Open and honest communication between employees and their managers is the key to a workplace where everyone feels they have a voice and are valued. That means that managers need to understand how to create a safe space where employees can discuss their mental health concerns.
It’s not just about asking ‘How’s it going?’, but about being genuinely interested in the people they manage. Part of management training should include knowing how to spot signs of mental distress and what they can do to support and empathise with the team member that is suffering.
Encourage healthy habits such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and mindfulness practices. The Japanese have embraced this for decades with the whole company gathering for gentle exercise at the start of their working day. You don’t have to do that, but there are plenty of things you can do from ensuring that the canteen, staff restaurant or even vending machines offer healthy options to starting a lunchbreak walking group. Create a healthy company strategy.
Take a good look at every part of your organisation. What are the causes of stress? What can be done to alleviate these?
Being part of a team or a working group is a great way to help people deal with stress. Encourage social interaction both at work and outside it to foster a sense of community. The saying ‘The team that plays together, stays together’ is true – even Harvard Business School supports this!
Celebrate employees’ achievements, don’t just assume that they know you’re pleased with their efforts, tell them. If you recognise their hard work you’ll boost morale and create a positive work environment.
People are all different and what is stressful for one person may be an exciting challenge for another. If your managers know the individual members of their team well, they’ll know what their goals and aspirations are and be able to provide the support and advice each person needs.
As an employer your employees’ mental health is critical to a sustainable, healthy organisation. Applying these strategies will help you to create a positive work environment and grow a productive and engaged workforce.
Robin Damhar is CEO of Nest Healthcare, offering a range of therapies, treatments and professional development, both on an outpatient or inpatient basis. www.nesthealthcare.co.uk.