Thought for the week

Does Your Workplace Support a Culture that Promotes Good Mental Health?

Businesses who have employees with poor mental health can expect increased sickness absence, low productivity and high staff turnover. It is crucial for organisations to ensure they promote good mental health and a positive workplace environment.

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Through the course of the pandemic, many employees have re-evaluated what they expect and want from their employers. Mental health has become a high priority. It’s an area that organisations cannot ignore, not least for the fact poor mental health is said to cost UK employers approximately £45 billion per year. As our August keynote speaker, Stephen Whitton, shares: Leaders are “starting to realise the mental wellbeing and health of their team is as important a factor in business performance as people’s physical health”.

What impacts poor workplace mental health?

To find out if a workplace supports a culture that promotes good mental health, it helps to analyse the factors that can decrease employee satisfaction:

• Low job security, such as zero-hour contracts.

• Poor communication.

• A fear of speaking out – not feeling valued or heard. Find out how to develop a speak-up culture.

• A sense no one is happy. Negativity in a team is infectious.

• Employee burnout – businesses with a culture of overwork.

• A lack of reward. Leaders not listening to ideas or showing they value their employees.

• Hostile work environments. Poor employer–employee relationships.

Companies that prioritise mental health can expect actively engaged employees – staff who feel happy to come to work and motivated to complete their tasks. Employees who look stressed, who often struggle to meet deadlines and keep to themselves (not speaking to management) suggest a poor mental health culture.

How businesses can support employee mental health in the workplace

1. Address the topic

If an organisation rarely addresses mental health, employees are likely going to feel uncomfortable talking about their own mental wellbeing. Leaders can help promote mental health in the workplace by opening up the dialogue through hosting a seminar or arranging an event that focuses on mental health. As Harvard Business Review shares, leaders can also make a difference by opening up about their own struggles. If leaders are willing to be vulnerable, employees will feel encouraged to do the same.

2. Have policies and support in place

Every organisation should have policies in place for mental health support. Businesses should equally consider investing in mental health training, particularly for HR personnel themselves. For large organisations, employee support lines for personal issues can be beneficial as long as they aren’t relied upon too heavily (those in most need of these channels are often the most reluctant to use them because of lack of trust).

3. Regular communication

With many people now working from home, it can be difficult to ensure regular communication with individual employees. Team Zoom meetings can overlook certain staff members, and they have limited use if individuals keep their camera off. Managers can help by finding time to check-in with employees without overburdening them. Asking too many questions or ringing too often could make employees feel uncomfortable or potentially micro-managed.

4. A balanced Work-life

The term ‘work-life balance’ can mean many different things to many different people. It is hard to pinpoint the exact balance. With that said, employers can create a culture that encourages employees to have a better quality of life outside working hours. For instance, managers can avoid emailing too late, and certainly not expect responses out of hours, consider a flexible work policy and be mindful of how many tasks employees are currently focused on. Overburdening staff can lead to employee burnout.

5. A welcoming environment

According to The Guardian, studies suggest art in an office can ‘boost productivity, lower stress and increase wellbeing’. When an employee walks into their office, if they see plants, paintings and overall brightness, they are going to feel happier compared to walking into a plain or dull space. As well as the look of an office, employers can ensure comfortable chairs and a clean lunch area, if available.

6. Mentors and coaches

Mental health mentors can take the pressure off managers and provide additional support. Employees may feel more comfortable discussing their feelings with an experienced advisor and an external coach can listen, and advise, from a detached viewpoint.

7. Showing employee value

The simple act of listening to employees can significantly demonstrate a workplace that promotes good mental health. Create a culture where employees feel their ideas will be given a real hearing and their contributions noticed. Make provision for spaces in which employees can share experiences without fear of retribution – there is much trauma in the system now and where it is suppressed there will be long-term damage.

What employees can do to support good mental health:

• Avoid getting involved with complaints about management. Complaining about team members and managers can create unnecessary conflict and hostility. Speak to managers or HR when facing a workplace issue. Once a meeting is over, it’s over – if you have something to say, then it’s important to say it at the right time; if it doesn’t feel safe to do this, then seek ways to improve the safety.

• Step away from the office or home working environment during a lunch break.

• Speak-up when projects and tasks are becoming overburdening.

• Take time to practise good mental health techniques: Yoga, meditation, hobbies…

Statistics show the pandemic has affected many people’s wellness. We are now living in a time of anxiety and uncertainty, making mental health an even greater priority. There are many steps businesses can take to improve their workplace cultures. Leaders who do not work on promoting good mental health will be left behind.

As a culture change consultancy specialising in leadership and strategy development, we can improve your organisation’s workplace culture, providing you with the tools you need to create long-lasting habits. Email us today to find out more: serenity@serenityinleadership.com

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Monday, September 13, 2021
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