Following an uncertain 2021 many of us are looking forward to a healthier and happier 2022. Therefore it is important to make time for not only your own mental health, but that of your employees’ too.
It seems like hardly a week goes by where stress and mental health in the workplace is not measured and researched usually with very similar results. Surveys unanimously agree that when employers invest in a workplace programme of mental wellbeing it leads to happier employees, who are more productive and staff turnover rates are reduced. However, it is easy for the main message of improving mental wellbeing in the workplace to get lost through excessive research and over simplified conclusions.
We all know that employees are our most valuable and important resource in the workplace. If we did not have any, work would not get done! One piece of recent research which stood out over and above the usual findings highlighted the way our employees currently deal with their mental health issues.
Male employees who had taken time off for their mental wellbeing were more likely to cover up the reasons for their absence by taking annual leave (28%) compared to women (19%), and almost half of employees (46%) said their job had become more stressful in the past two years. Almost six in ten (58%) said their mental wellbeing has deteriorated because of their professional life, whilst only half (47%) of employees said they feel comfortable discussing their mental wellbeing at work.¹
This last point is probably the most important; quite simply the majority of employees are not comfortable with sharing their problems with colleagues in the workplace - which goes against most companies’ mental wellbeing initiatives. The usual strategy is Mental Health First Aid and mental wellbeing awareness courses in the workplace together with volunteer Mental Health First Aiders (Champions or Co-ordinators) taking ownership of improving workplace mental wellbeing. This works, but only up to a point if over 50% are unwilling to share their worries and issues.
Furthermore, if we look to the future, the more we place an emphasis on mental health in the workplace, the more employees might feel that their employer did not do enough to help them. And in a culture of ‘no win, no fee’ employment tribunals, it may not be long before we start to see cases where employees want redress from mentally stressful situations that they have found themselves in.
Just to be clear, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by undertaking a risk assessment encompassing the mental wellbeing of employees. Employers with five or more employees are also expected (by law) to write the risk assessment down, store it and review it at regular intervals. In similar fashion to ensuring employees wear hard hats if head injury risks exist, once stressors have been identified, employers have a duty to provide suitable “protection”.
Looking at alternatives to the norm, employers might be tempted to look at a mental wellbeing ‘app’ based solution. Again, these have their merits but tend to be ignored by those employees who are sceptical about mental health. Perhaps the best solution is to embed mental health training into every employees’ annual objectives supporting them with skills to understand the signs of mental health issues, providing self-care resources and signposting if further help is needed. In addition to helping all employees, including those who are unwilling to share their issues, this option will provide 24/7 access and support for remote workers.
There is also the option of providing your employees with flexible benefits that could include Health Cash Plans. These plans can be bespoke to your company and include features such as counselling as well as health and wellbeing checks, something that could make the difference to your employee.
Source - ¹ https://www.benenden.co.uk/newsroom/mental-wellbeing-report-2020/