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15th May 2018

Mental Health at Work: Employer and Employee Perspectives

Despite the stigma that often surrounds mental health, we are more conscious of it and more people are open about difficulties they encounter than ever. Our home and work life can be affected by challenges to our mental health, so it is important to ensure that we do what we can to maintain it. This can be influenced by our working environments, both negatively and positively, meaning that employees and employers must be aware of what they can do to improve their own mental health and that of their workforce.

Employers:

The impact of poor employee mental health is clear; prolonged absence from work, decreased productivity and lack of confidence are all symptoms that can impact organisations, teams and workforces. According to a recent Thriving at Work report, the annual cost of poor mental health to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion, outlining the staggering influence mental illness can have on presenteeism, sickness absence and staff turnover.

The benefits of a mentally healthy workplace are clear; higher employee engagement, increased efficiency and improvement in profit highlight just how important it is to promote mental wellbeing in your organisation. There are a number of actions that employers and managers can take to ensure a mentally healthy workplace:

  • Establishing trust and maintaining open conversation
    Trust between employer and employee is key to a healthy workplace environment; it means that employees are offered a safe means of communication to voice any worries or difficulties they may be experiencing. This can take a massive weight off employees’ shoulders and allow them to focus more on working hard rather than worrying.
  • Evaluating your own behaviour
    An important trait of any leader is to be able to take a step back and assess yourself; how you behave can impact the workplace environment and negatively affect the mental wellbeing of your colleagues. Do you contribute to a high-pressure environment, setting unattainable deadlines or providing only short breaks? Do you have a positive, open relationship with your employees? Do you delegate workloads fairly? All of these questions are important to ask yourself when looking to enhance employee mental health, and self improvement will contribute to the improvement of the workplace. Impact works to help you improve your management and leadership skills, ensuring that you get the best out of yourself and your employees, find out more here.
  • Providing an optimal workplace environment
    There are many factors in workspaces that can contribute to employee wellbeing. Open plan offices in particular, known for being loud, busy and lacking privacy, have been shown to make staff uncomfortable and some have said even promote sexism. Other factors, such as workspace aesthetic, mess and overcrowding can also impact mental health. Why not take a look at the current environment, focusing on factors like colours and space, and consult your team to see how this can improve; a positive and comfortable working environment can contribute to employee wellbeing. ‘Safe spaces’ are especially encouraged, where employees can have a calm freeing area to take ‘time out’.

Employees:

Looking after your mental health in both your home and work life is important. Mental health charity Mind states that “1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety or stress”. While there is much stigma around these issues, they are very common and nothing to be ashamed about; the most important thing is that you are able to cope with any issues you may experience. We list some actions you can take to help deal with feelings of stress in the workplace, however if you are struggling to cope or believe you may be suffering from any mental health issues, we recommend that you pay a visit to your GP who will be able to refer you to someone who can help.

  • Be open and honest
    One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to be open about it. You should be able to speak to your employer or manager about any struggles you may be facing and they should work with you to decide on what steps to take next. Alternatively, you could speak to trusted colleagues, family and friends, or a doctor.
  • Review what improvements you can make
    One factor that can influence our mental health is our environment, which means it might be a good idea to take a look at your desk and see what can be improved. Is it messy? Can you find things easily? Take some time to tidy up your workspace, this article is useful for organising your desk, and dedicate a small amount of time at the end of the day to neaten everything up again, ready for the next morning. Poor time management can also lead to increased stress; this extract from a previous article is particularly helpful: “Being able to differentiate between important, urgent, and less so tasks means that you are much more likely to view your work load from a healthy, productive and less stressful perspective. There are a variety of things you can do to improve your time management, and to healthily process workloads. Mental health charity Mind suggests not overloading yourself with too many tasks at any one time, pausing between tasks, reflecting on your day and introducing a hobby you enjoy, which uses a different part of your brain.”
  • Look after yourself
    This applies as much to your home life as it does your work life; take care of yourself, which will benefit your mental health. If you eat properly and healthily, stay hydrated, exercise when you can, get a good amount of sleep every night, and allow yourself time for activities you enjoy, you will be improving your physical and mental wellbeing.

If you find any of those things difficult or feel that you cannot achieve them, there is always support available for you, such as Mind, Time to Change or your GP.

At Impact, we aim to help you and your business to achieve the best that it can, and we understand that wellbeing can greatly influence that. If you are an employer looking to improve your workplace environment or need support to do your job, or if you are an employee in need of some extra help to be the most efficient and successful that you can be, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.