One in six people in the UK are affected by a common mental health problem each week, and up to 15 million workdays were taken off due to stress, anxiety or depression in 2021.
Mental illness can be frightening, overwhelming, and isolating for those experiencing it and fear about how their employer may react to them could intensify how they’re feeling. Although mental health issues are common, many people do not want to disclose their struggles to an employer due to negative stigma. However, if you treat an employee differently due to a mental health issue, this could be deemed as discrimination, and you might find yourself breaking the law.
Workplaces need to do all they can to support workers’ mental health.
Advantages of Supporting Employee’s Mental Health
If you want to have a productive, profitable, and happy work environment, having policies for employee mental health is vital. Here are some reasons why your company would benefit from promoting mental health in the workplace:
Return on Investment (ROI)
The World Health Organization estimates that the cost of workplace mental health issues is approximately $1 trillion. This is an excessive sum comprised of the lost revenue caused by anxiety and depression. However, WHO claims that employers who invested in employees’ mental health saw a 4X return.
Boost in Productivity
Contrary to popular belief, stress does not lead to increased performance. Stress creates more stress and can lead to chronic burnout and prolonged time off work.
Research demonstrates that around 86% of workers receiving treatment for depression saw a significant improvement in their work performance, with some studies evidencing a reduction of absenteeism by 40-60%.
Improved Staff Retention
Numerous studies have demonstrated the connection between employees’ mental health and job retention. Staff turnover is costly, inefficient, and destabilising for other employees. By focusing on your employees’ overall well-being, their job satisfaction and intention to remain within their role are likely to increase significantly.
Stress and anxiety harm creativity. When hindered by mental health issues, our work performance suffers, energy resources deplete, and we are less open to new ideas and possibilities. However, research has shown a 23% increase in employees’ creativity and motivation when they are happy, calm, and supported.
What Can You Do to Support Employee’s Mental Health?
Managers need to counteract stigmas in order to promote mental health. Stigma creates a barrier between the employee and the support they may desperately need. Managers are responsible for their employees’ psychological and physical well-being and must focus on creating an open, friendly, and non-judgemental workplace environment.
Open a Dialogue
Start by initiating a dialogue with your employees. Individuals with mental health issues are unlikely to start the conversation themselves until it is too late to help negate negative consequences. Regular, diarised one-on-one meetings with each employee can be hugely beneficial. These meetings create the opportunity for honest, transparent communication whereby the employee feels able to disclose any personal issues they may be experiencing.
Additionally, these meetings provide their line managers with the necessary information they require to support the employee both with workplace stress and home-life concerns.
Creating a one-to-one dialogue is a great start; however, a collective, collaborative discussion should flow to transform the workplace attitude towards mental health.
Having your team on the same page, with a uniform understanding of mental health issues, policies, protocols, and support networks will create an integrated and positive group mentality.
Mental health training in the workplace has long been neglected. Thankfully, the tide is turning, and various resources and training programmes are being made available for both employees and employers.
This changes the mindset toward mental health, and training provides a structure by which crises and issues can be dealt with proactively and compassionately.
Encourage a Work-Life Balance
Unfortunately, there is a persistent idea in the business world that time spent away from the desk is time wasted. Long work hours, little sleep, and overwhelm are often worn as a badge of honour. However, this is a detrimental belief as many studies have evidenced that employees with positive work-life balance are often the most productive and efficient. Try the following suggestions:
- Encourage employees to take their paid vacation days throughout the year to ensure they have regular breaks and holidays to look forward to. Employees who neglect to take their annual leave may need to take them all at once, roll them over to the following year, or lose them altogether, adversely affecting their stress levels and well-being.
- Organise team events, away days, and bonding activities to promote fellowship and connection outside of work-based dialogue.
- Promote volunteering endeavours or reward employees with activities they enjoy, such as climbing, cycling, or arts and crafts.
- Participate in government-led benefits such as the Gym Scheme and Bike to Work scheme as exercise positively affects mental health.
- Ensure employees can easily focus on their nutrition by supplying fresh fruit and water within the office rather than topping up the office biscuit tin. Setting up deals and discounts with healthy local eateries or arranging for a nearby deli to deliver to the office will help counteract the consumption of fast food and sugary snacks, which increase lethargy and can contribute to anxiety and depression.
Supporting employees with their mental health is a win-win scenario for all involved. By implementing positive communication, policies, and training, you will see an exponential increase in productivity, creativity, efficiency, and profit margins.