You’d be forgiven for thinking this stops with some beers in the staff fridge, or that your air conditioning must always maintain the perfect temperature!
Sadly it’s not that simple.
Did you know that 25% of people in the UK in any single year will be suffering from issues of mental health? That equates to one out of every six workers likely encountering some form of emotional challenge, and in real terms, that’s roughly five million people which is over half of the population of Greater London. It’s an incredible amount of people. To put this in terms more easily related to the workplace, as an example, a study in 2017 byDeloitte’sshowed that a workplace audit at EDF Energy outlined a loss of productivity to the tune of £1.4 million attributed to issues of mental health and wellbeing.
So we think if you’re tackling employee wellbeing in a proactive manner then you’re definitely on the right path, but if it’s something you tend to ignore, or maybe don’t know how to approach, then it’s possibly time to take a step back and consider your options and to try and make steps in the right direction.
Now, it’s refreshing to see the UK making significant progress in opening up the subject and reducing the taboo and stigma of discussing the state of your head, but whilst there has been progress, it would seem that the rate of this progress is slow. In the US, over 70% of companies have programmes in place to target and assist with employee wellbeing. In the UK this figure is just 60%, which leaves 40% of companies failing to implement some kind of support system for their staff to call upon at time of need, but as far as not having systems in place to deal specifically with mental health this figure is much higher at over 70%. This has to change, especially with industries like banking that consider stress to be some kind of accolade, even a badge of honour!
Although it’s fair to say that the point at which you decide to speak to somebody about your mental health, is not only a very personal thing, but with so many people reluctant to admit a problem in the first place for fear of being stigmatised or cast out, by the time it’s discussed it’s often too late.
Point is, the subject is something we should all be taking on board and doing something about as it affects so much more than just the individual.
Life is hard!
Indeed life can be stressful. Every day we are all faced with factors outside of our control be this trying to make ends meet to provide for yourself or your family. Maybe your commute is stressful with overcrowded trains or delays. It’s these outside factors we can’t always act upon but as an Employer we can certainly implement some systems and make changes to our cultural values that will help to provide a structure for your staff to fall back on should they find themselves in a position whereby they need to reach out for help.
So it’s important to recognise that employee wellbeing is not just limited to making sure that resources are available to perform their day to day tasks, but that it extends much further and when considering the social impact of mental health, the result of not trying to influence the overall wellbeing of your staff can effect so many people, dragging not only on individual performance and the team, but also the individuals family and friends. By taking steps to help ease any burden that may exist the chances of this manifesting in to something much bigger can be stemmed much earlier.
Wellbeing or mental health?
The two are clearly linked but let's first define wellbeing, and then we'll then move on to what you can do to fix things in your workplace.
The UK Department of Health simply defines wellbeing as an individual being able to feel good about themselves with normal functioning in their day to day life when compared to social comparisons and values that are considered “normal”. As for mental health, the issues can be far more complex and are clearly varied, and aside from genetic or clinical conditions that are more difficult to medicate, we should at least do all we can to minimise people’s exposure to outside factors and influences caused by life and work that may start with light pressure but then manifests in to stress and then something much deeper, and with wider reaching impact upon productivity, quality of work, attendance, morale and attrition.
The good news is, there are things you can do as a company to combat these problems and to nurture an environment of support and a culture of employee wellbeing, and the sooner you accept the fact that taking control over these factors is a positive thing, the sooner you can reap the benefits of a workforce that is less stressed, more energized and more productive, giving their best work and delivering higher quality results.
Three key areas
Here we discuss what we think you should target to help reduce stress and to foster a culture of wellbeing and support.
Change your culture; eradicate stigma
This may not be easy, but your company executives and leadership team must take the lead on this issue and build a culture of positive mental health awareness right from the very top. Unless this issue is tackled head on and embraced by everyone in the business, you will fail before you’re even started.
Educate and recognise
Mental health and wellbeing is a sensitive and valid subject and one we recommend doing your research on. If your company has a well structured HR department, this could be a great start and any new initiative in this area could be allocated to your HR team in the form of awareness, training and counselling. Be ready to discuss wider initiatives to roll out across the business and make people aware of the new systems you are putting in place. Also, teach yourself to recognise the warning signs of stress in your employees. It may be as simple as sitting down for a 1:1 to identify issues of bullying, financial stress or anything else that is being bottled up and not discussed. Give your staff somewhere to go at a time of need and they'll really appreciate having this as a fall back.
Team incentives, staff training, activity events
Everyone can benefit from a team event be this one to target issues raised through lack of managerial support, or maybe it’s just team bonding and morale that needs a boost. Your people may need to foster positive relationship with peers; friendship is a vital part of a cohesive and happy team. What about new starters? An ice breaker event for an influx of new employees could be just what you need. What about remote workers that are seldom in the office, and how do they cope with lack of team interaction. There are endless reasons, however whatever incentive or activity you decide to implement, make them work for specific types of team or demographic. What may work for one team may be completely inappropriate for another. Not everyone wants to hit the pub. Others may not benefit from a boot camp assault course, and what about those that shudder and fail to contribute when participating in a strategy game or treasure hunt. Make the initiative fit the problem so as to maximise your chances of achieving the right outcome.
Persist and evaluate
Any programme efforts being put in place may first struggle to get off the ground unless implemented properly, so it’s important to remain committed. It may be that you get things moving; they start off well but then start to waver. In all cases, it’s vital to review and evaluate the success of your programme and be prepared to modify and improve things to make them work and to be as effective as possible. Iterations to your programme could be small but by taking a wider and committed view over the benefits of having a robust and effective system in place for managing employee wellbeing, you stand to gain significant results in the longer term. We're a great believer in the use of employee surveys as a tool to gain vital insight, and these tools may help you execute this process of evaluation. Give it a shot; we recommend tools likeCulture Amp,HppyandThe Happiness Indexto help get you started.
Last of all, but absolutely just as important is the need to help your staff recognise the value of such efforts and to do what they can to take charge of their own mental health and wellbeing. Help them to look out for the early warning signs and to speak up when they need help or spot somebody else that may need to talk. Do what you can to encourage participation. Short of making them go to bed early, and dragging them to the gym for a workout, you can at least educate them about the benefits of awareness. Help them think about their emotional intelligence and the value of mindfulness; recognising when there is a problem, and helping them realise that there is almost always a solution, and that you as their employer wants to help them. You must encourage people to share their feelings and experiences in their day to day work. Keep up with those 1:1's. Talk about their roles and the problems they face, and what can you do to help make it easier for them. Help them recognise the signs not only in themselves but in others.
We have only touched on and dipped below the surface of such an important subject, but it’s fair to say that the evidence of tackling the subject of mental health and employee wellbeing is extremely important and to ignore the subject could be costing you far more than you first think. If you yourself or anybody you know appears to be struggling with their own issues and you need more information, there are plenty of resources online to get you started such asRethink,MindandMental Health UK. There is even some great info on theNHS Website, and your GP is often a good starting point.