Mental Health in the Workplace: Could We Be Doing More?

April 5, 2019

Mental health awareness has erupted over the last few years. It has become a global issue and although it has had a somewhat turbulent relationship with the media, a series of hugely successful campaigns have done a lot to remove the stigma attached to it. People are talking about mental health every day all over the globe and those people have a huge audience of readers wishing to overcome their own barriers.

Yet despite this, mental health issues in the workplace cost employers up to £42 billion a year and according to a YouGov survey, 3 in 5 employees have experienced mental health problems in the past year due to work-related issues. Creating a mentally healthy workplace is therefore an extremely important part of successfully running any business.  

So, how can founders actively support and encourage positive mental health in the workplace?

Firstly, it is important that founders invest time and resources in training and development opportunities so they can successfully manage and support their teams. Good management is linked with good health, mental well-being and productivity, whilst poor leadership skills have been linked with low morale, reduced productivity and increased mistakes and errors among staff.

One of the great things about promoting healthy habits is that it doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. There are many simple ways of creating a culture of wellness, such as asking simple, open and non-judgemental questions about an individual’s mental health and offering support and an opportunity to communicate about well-being at work.

Stress is one of the biggest factors of employee health and there is a fine line between healthy motivation and unhealthy stress. Although stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it is linked to depression, anxiety and self-harm. It is vital that entrepreneurs lead by example to help employees manage and reduce their stress levels. Small adjustments that entrepreneurs can make to support a healthy workforce include:

  • discouraging employees from working long hours;
  • refraining from emailing over the weekend;
  • having an open-door policy; and
  • encouraging employees to take full lunch breaks.

How can we ensure that founders recognise the signs of mental health problems among employees?

It is important to remember that everyone’s experience of a mental health problem is different and there may be no outward sign – this is why it is so important to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking.

Being trained to recognise mental health problems and to support employees will help maintain employee well-being. Developing wellness plans can be extremely helpful in keeping positive mental health on the agenda. Wellness plans often include the encouragement of structured conversations between manager and employee – leading to practical, agreed steps which can be reviewed on a regular basis. Mental health days are also becoming a popular way of encouraging positive mental health as they give people a chance to do things for their own mental health, whether that be spending a day with their family or friends or doing a hobby.

The recognition that mental health has received over the last few years is fantastic, and it is so important that we keep making the effort to not only recognise that mental health issues exist, but actively encouraging well-being and mindfulness both in and outside of the workplace. Poor mental health affects a lot of us and making small, simple changes to the way we interact with one another can make a lot of difference. Remember, positivity breeds positivity.

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