If someone works full time from their mid-twenties until retirement they will spend more time at work than with their family. Given how much time people spend at work and the increasing cost of employee turnover, is it any surprise many organisations and businesses are trying to make their environments happier and healthier? Contributor Karen Meager and John McLachlan, Co-founders – Monkey Puzzle Training.
There’s been great progress but there is still work to do and the focus right now is on mental health. Our mental health is important, and anyone can experience problems under certain conditions. Having a good EAP programme and building awareness is a great start to understanding mental health in the workplace, but it is not enough. By then the person is already experiencing a problem and, like with any other chronic health problem, it takes time to recover from. In addition, smaller organisations can’t always afford to run shiny initiatives. And let’s be clear, the stigma has not gone away. We still find that many people are reluctant to come forward and share their experiences for fear of being judged or seen as weak.
Prevention is a lot better than cure but in order to consider how we can help people be mentally healthy, it’s first important to understand some of the contributory factors to mental heath problems. Once organisations are clear about these, it’s often obvious how organisation can implement strong mental health strategies that also support the business.
Some of the main contributory factors to mental health problems include:
- Not feeling capable or able to resolve problems
- Loneliness and poor quality relationships
- Feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you’re not achieving anything
- Negative or unhelpful attitudes towards other people
- Problems with emotional regulation
You could easily think that business have nothing to offer people in terms of helping people to build healthy strategies around these things, but look a little deeper: Well trained capable managers and leaders can mentor and support others to develop skills, helping them to feel generally more capable, whilst also acting as healthy role models. It is no wonder that bad management is the number one factor cited in people leaving jobs, having someone you depend on treat you or others badly or be simply incapable themselves.
Teaching people healthy and productive communication skills not only helps them in their work but also at home. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have told me that attending one of our business courses has saved their marriage or made them a better parent. People need awareness, motivation and choices to change their behaviour and very often the workplace is the only place they will receive education and development after college or university.
Generally speaking, most of us are not naturally good at conflict management and negotiating. Far from being the realm of leaders and sales people, these are essential skills for everyone to learn. Good communication skills leads to better relationships, increased confidence and better emotional regulation.
With the increase in technology, endless options for things to do and ever increasing social pressures to be ‘perfect’, someone’s ability to manage themselves and their time is critical. Not only is it a useful life skill, but it’s absolutely essential for businesses to be more effective and productive.
The problem with many time management training programmes is that they teach skills and techniques that work for some people, but not everyone. People often report that it takes more time and effort to implement the technique than is worth it. Everyone can be more productive if they work with their own style and discover strategies that fit for them. Time management can also be developed by mentoring, coaching and role modelling and sharing best practice, so it’s not about investing huge amounts in big initiatives. Being able to manage work (and life) better leads to increased feelings of ‘being capable’ and improves emotional regulation as it reduces feelings of overwhelm, stress and anxiety.
By focusing on three key areas of management and leadership development, communication skills and time management, organisations can address most of the contributory factors of mental health problems without even using the words.