Businesses must ‘walk the walk and not just talk the talk’ with how they support workers’ mental health challenges, or will pay the price in reduced business profitability and staff retention.
Businesses need to stop paying lip-service to mental health support in the workplace by creating a robust, discreet, flexible and remotely-accessible mental health support strategy that includes training managers on how to support employees with ill mental health.
“Last year, mental ill health accounted for almost 20% of all lost working time in the UK, was the leading cause of sick leave among British workers, and cost UK companies £43 billion,” David McCormack says.
“Furthermore, around 35% of employees admit they would be prepared to leave a job if they were offered one elsewhere in a bid to escape a stressful working environment – and not necessarily for financial gain.
“With the cost of recruitment to fill vacancies estimated to be in the region of 33% of the original employees’ annual salary, it’s time for businesses to step-up and ask themselves if their mental health provision is really fit for purpose, or resign themselves to a hit to their bottom line, and that staff will leave.”
His comments coincide with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9 to 13 May 2022) and the stark reminder that poor mental health continues to be a real problem in the UK, with consequences for both business productivity and sustainability, as well as workers’ overall physical health.
“There are many physical risks associated with poor mental health,” says David, “such as high blood pressure and suppressed immune function. It can even affect brain function and temporarily impair strategic thinking and dull creative abilities.”
Here’s a guide which includes a series of quick-fix initiatives that are designed to support employees’ mental health in the workplace, and in turn build employee engagement and positive experiences:
- Create a safe space – ensure the workplace has a space where employees are comfortable being honest about their struggles and feelings.
- Show you care – make it clear the company views employees’ wellbeing as essential with a Mental Health at Work plan. Encourage staff to take lunch breaks, holidays, and disconnect when they have time booked-off.
- Gather data – anonymous staff surveys, regular one-to-ones and small group meetings and performance reviews are effective ways to collect feedback from the team about their stress levels and mental wellbeing. Keeping track of employees’ wellbeing is key to understanding when and how to offer the necessary support.
- Lead from the top down – directors, managers and business owners can help remove the stigma of talking about mental health issues by sharing their own battles with stress and wellness. They can demonstrate that staff mental and physical wellbeing is a priority with actions and not just words, such as not answering non-urgent messages and emails after hours. Give staff time to exercise, do yoga or meditate, and when taking time off work to rest, making sure they do.
- Provide robust resources – Complete and complement existing health and wellbeing care support with digital-first mental health solutions that are available to staff when and where they need them.