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With one in six workers in the UK* experiencing common mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, it can no longer be a taboo in the workplace. As an employer it is vital mental health is firmly on your radar so you are fully equipped to help employees with conditions that can be crippling. Understanding how you can offer support and ensure the wellness of your team is key.
While health and wellness in the workplace is firmly on the agenda, such as group exercise classes and duvet days, the more sensitive areas of wellness such as personality disorders or acute anxiety can be more of a taboo, it is vital they are talked about to ensure the safety of individuals. As a business owner there is expertise you can tap into and professional guidance to ensure you are offering appropriate support.
At Benchmark we spoke to the experts in this field Sheffield Mind who were able to shed light on how companies can help their staff manage mental health issues. An open and engaging employer can mean people are more comfortable managing their conditions in the work place and it does not hinder their working performance.
Taking time to understand the issues surrounding mental health will help employers support their work force with a positive and proactive approach.
Sadly there is a costly taboo around mental health which is both damaging for the individual and a business - the facts themselves are disturbing reading:
- More than one in five (21%) agree they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress has affected them
- 14% agreed they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
- 30% of staff disagreed with the statement 'I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed'
- 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don't feel they have the right training or guidance
So how do we tackle these statistics and bust the taboo surrounding mental health in the workplace. Here are a selection of tips from Sheffield Mind.
People are often reluctant to talk about conditions because for some it is difficult to broach. People feel scared and confused about confronting the issue at work and many prefer to hide or ignore problems which are affecting their mental wellbeing. If you can demonstrate to employees wellness is at the forefront of company values and culture this will act as reassurance; and if there is an issue for individuals, if you are actively seen as having a supportive structure people will feel more comfortable to open up.
By hosting regular one-to-ones with your team members you are creating a natural forum for them to air personal issues. Having a clear line manager with also ensure that there is an obvious route for them to take any of their concerns and feel it is being handled efficiently.
Hosting one-to-one meetings away from the gaze of other team members can be hugely beneficial for someone suffering with anxiety and depression. A different environment gives people the opportunity to talk more freely and feel less constrained by a work environment. This could be a valuable outlet for individuals who are especially anxious.
Understand the individuals needs and where you can offer flexibility that may support them and also allow them to get the job done. It may be as simple as a day a week at home or one later start to accommodate therapy. This works to ease the stress and the enormity of an office environment.
Team Away Days
Unifying your team is important and regular investment in taking them for an away day each quarter helps to cement team spirit. This culture can help create firm friendships, so if someone is suffering with mental health issues and don't feel comfortable going direct to management they can approach a colleague for support.
A Mentally Healthier Workplace
Sheffield Mind's advice is to take small, simple steps to create a workplace which is 'mentally healthier'. Increasing wellness across the team means encouraging them to look after themselves whilst getting the job done in a happy healthy working environment.
- Reclaim lunch breaks - if your team aren't taking lunch breaks you have to ask yourself is this healthy? Encouraging them to even take ten minutes away from their desk is vital as it is important to break state.
- Walking meetings - if weather allows take time out for a walking meeting. Breaking out of the office for some fresh air can be a great mental boost.
- Hold a group activity - whether it's a chat over a coffee, a walk to the sandwich shop or something more exciting like a craft session or quiz, it's nice for a team to do something out of the ordinary to break up routine.
- Mindful exercise - offer joint exercise opportunities for your team - we're not talking hard core weights but therapeutic sessions such as Pilates or Yoga. This is great for team bonding and adds value to an individuals mental health.
- Home and work boundaries - creating specific times for fun in the workplace helps for people to clearly distinguish leisure time and outside of these times focus on the job in hand.
Sheffield Mind have a training programme for employers wanting to improve workplace wellbeing and are happy to discuss particular requirements. The charity tailor training to suit the workforce with targeted, relevant case studies, focusing on the type of situation you are likely to encounter. Sheffield Mind can help improve mental health awareness in the workplace, and provide advice and guidance on how to deal with common issues at work. To get in touch with the Mind team in Sheffield contact - 0114 258 4489
At Benchmark we work to develop our team's wellness with team activities. Introducing team sessions to your work place can provide employees with headspace outside of the working environment and can make small positive steps in terms of headspace and mindfullness. We will be running a Business breakfast focusing on mental health in the workplace in May. If you would like to be kept informed of this event please email our team at Benchmark.