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HR Director role needs to change to support mental health

Article by Martin Blinder, Founder - Tictrac

As work environments in the UK become progressively more demanding, employees are putting new demands on their senior leadership teams and HR decision-makers. The demand for better mental health support comes as UK workers increasingly face challenging workloads, long hours, and pressures to maintain high-performance levels constantly and consistently. 

The uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated this –  as more companies implemented remote work to mitigate the risk of infection, the ‘always on’ monolithic era of working has been born. This will only be amplified during the latest set of uncertainties and challenges faced by both individuals and businesses, such as the cost of living crisis, recession and ongoing redundancies to name a few.

Increased Demand For Mental Health Support
Our Virtual HR Leaders’ Exchange Report shows a marked increase in requests for mental health support from UK employees – following the same trend identified by the British Medical Association (BMA) which found the number of adults accessing mental health treatments has risen by 71%. What’s more, a third of managers feel out of their depth supporting their team with mental health concerns.

In order to better mitigate the pressures causing mental health issues within the UK workforce and identify potential pressure points in advance, the role of the HR Director needs to change and evolve to incorporate well-being guidance. This isn’t an issue for future planning – the need is there now, and employers must take note and start planning and implementing how they can provide appropriate and additional support for all their staff.

Creating Direct Impacts on Business
While health and well-being benefits should always be the main driver towards increased wellness, the impact on the bottom line will always be a consideration for business leaders. However, experts globally agree that mental health support is not just good for employee well-being, but also essential to better business performance. Mental health support can improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and boost morale, which are all critical factors for business success. 

In fact, FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and well-being were found to outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10%. This showcases that supporting staff mental health and well-being allows companies to reap the benefits of loyalty, commitment, innovation, productivity and profitability. In essence – workplaces which support mental health benefit everyone involved.

How to Meet Demands
While the data is there to show medium-to-long-term benefits to a business’ bottom line, for companies in the UK starting to improve their mental health support systems, an employee wellness strategy and investments are required to improve employee well-being. This could include company initiatives to move more, resources made available to employees, mental health training for managers and senior leadership teams, and services to help individual employees manage their mental health effectively. However, when creating a mental health and well-being strategy, the key thing to remember is – it doesn’t all have to happen at once. Any change no matter how big or small is a step in the right direction.

That being said, as the demand for mental health and well-being support continues to grow, companies need to step up and provide the necessary support for their employees. A well-designed wellness program can enable companies to create a supportive and productive work environment.

Our advice for HR Directors
Our advice to HR directors for supporting their employee’s mental health includes, but is not limited to:

  •  Ensure you’re listening to employees and ‘checking the pulse’ regularly. A good way to do this is run an employee survey – typically once or twice a year – with shorter pulse checks in between, in order to drive real change more frequently.
  • Ensure your senior leadership team / the business leaders are visible, open, and encouraging well-being to be put on the agenda as well as promoting the discussion of mental health and wellness in the workplace. Essentially, leading the change from the top.
  • Ensure anyone responsible for mental health well-being is conscious that mental health, and the impacts on it, is personal to each individual. Needs and approach will change depending on life and career stages, and building in flexibility will create a better policy. 
  •  Ensure that employees take regular breaks and use their holiday leave. On a day-to-day basis, ensure working hours are managed, and a culture where working excessively is seen as the exception not the rule.

    Martin Blinder is Founder of Tictrac, Vice-President of Dialogue Health Technologies and General Manager, UK. Martin was named among the 15 most influential in Digital Health, and has been featured in Wired, NYT, BBC, CNBC, Fortune, Mashable, Wall Street Journal, among others. He is also an active member of YPO, London chapter.

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