2020 was the year to forget, but for many it is a year to recover from. For our employees, never before have the lines between work and home been so blurred. We were forced to juggle home life with work all while adjusting to the fact we were in the middle of a global pandemic which altered life as we knew it. For many of us we had never experienced anything of this scale or severity in our lifetimes and this impacted our mental wellbeing.
A study by Oracle found that over three quarters of the population said the pandemic negatively affected their mental health. The same study discovered that 76% of employee believe their company should be doing more to protect the mental health of their workforce. These statistics alone speak volumes but when you then start to combine these facts with the estimated cost of mental health on UK businesses, the message becomes even clearer. The Centre for Mental Health found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £35 billion a year and this figure keeps on rising. This equates to a cost of £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy.
Many organisations are already stepping up and acknowledging mental health as a big part of their engagement and wellbeing strategy but if anyone in your organisation still needs convincing; Deloitte identified that for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover. When you add this hard economic fact into the mix, it is clear that employee mental ill-health has to be a top priority.
It is important to note that any mental wellbeing initiative cannot be a standalone project. It isn’t something that should just be mentioned during Mental Health Awareness Week. It needs to be deeply ingrained in the culture of the organisation. At VRAMP we firmly believe that mental wellbeing and employee engagement are inextricably linked. After all, when you strip back employee engagement, its purpose is to make someone feel they matter. That positively impacts our mental health. We would therefore always recommend that mental health initiatives are part of your employee engagement strategy so they can be weaved into your company culture.
We have combined suggestions for some of the UK’s leading mental health charities and support organisations to create a checklist of steps an organisation should take to implement better mental health support.
Mental wellbeing is complex. For you to provide effective mental healthcare it is likely that you will need support from professionals. This could be access to a workplace mental healthcare scheme, links to mental health helplines, employees trained as mental health first aiders or support creating a mental health policy. Once you have solid support provisions in place, you can take on the remaining five steps.
Many employees are still reluctant to declare a mental health issue for fear that their employer will regard it as a weakness or failure. Your employees need to be comfortable and confident in sharing their experiences. They need to know that good health, both mental and physical, is a company priority. The best way to achieve this is to lead from the top. If senior leaders and line managers are honest and open, the barriers will begin to lift.
If an employee went to their line manager and informed them they were struggling with their mental wellbeing, are you confident that all your line managers would know how to respond? If not, some internal training will be necessary to run through the support you have available and how to personally provide ongoing support – from the right questions to ask to a reminder to consistently carry out 1:1s and return to work interviews. If your line managers are confident, your employees will feel better supported.
The more we communicate about something the more comfortable we feel. But we are all different and we prefer to consume information, and engage, in different ways. Therefore, the more channels you use to spread the message the more aware your employees will be of your commitment to support their mental health. From the induction process, through to articles, posters, weekly tips for line managers and guest speakers at company conferences. Every time you discuss mental wellbeing, it has the potential to resonate with another person.
The more you involve people, the greater sense of ownership they will feel, increasing productivity and morale. This might be input on your mental wellbeing policy or opinions on how the organisation should evolve. No matter how big or small the decision, you have multiple routes available to make it happen. These include staff surveys, focus groups, performance reviews, innovation events, team briefings and feedback through internal communication tools.
To know how to effectively support your team you need to know if there are any factors that have changed that could have a negative impact on mental health. For example, a big project with tight deadlines, a noisier work environment, an increase in lone working, or poorly managed change could all cause mental health problems. By taking into consideration all the possible triggers and ensuring you monitor and measure them, you can make the necessary changes or interventions to protect your staff.
Ultimately, for us to normalise mental health and give it the same non-stigmatised understanding that physical health has, we need to communicate and engage. And when we spend around 50 years of our lives at work, the workplace has to be somewhere we are comfortable discussing our mental wellbeing.
For further guidance or support we recommend visiting:
Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/
Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
Mental Health at Work – https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/
Centre for Mental Health – https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/