World Mental Health Day is an ideal opportunity to get people talking about and educating themselves on the subject of mental health and wellbeing.
Why does it matter in the workplace?
Mental ill-health is more common than you imagine – one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. The global pandemic has served to compound the problem over the past year as people cope with enforced lockdowns, worries about personal health and those of their loved ones as well as threats to jobs and income.
However, only 20% of workers think their manager is fully equipped to support mental health issues in the workplace. Too frequently bosses are seen as part of the problem; with poor management and heavy workloads contributing to a rise in stress-related absence in the workplace, according to research.
Stress-related problems create other challenges too such as presenteeism (working while sick) and leavism (working instead of taking holiday leave).
While all jobs carry stress to varying degrees, it’s when bosses fail to recognise when it becomes too much and don’t offer ways to help people manage it that it becomes a bigger business threat.
The stigma surrounding mental health
One of the reasons why mental health is such a big issue in the workplace is that often cases go unrecognised until they become severe. People are reluctant to be open about their mental health fearing their bosses and co-workers will negatively judge them and the stigma that still surrounds mental health.
The lack of awareness and understanding about mental health can result in people being treated differently at work. Being afraid that you will be discriminated against – overlooked for a promotion, a key project or side-lined in other ways if you disclose mental health issues is a very real concern for people. Hence why many people avoid talking about their mental health at work. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness; only making problems worse.
Can you spot the warning signs of mental ill health?
Mental ill health does not discriminate – anyone can suffer from it, at any stage of their lives. This is why keeping an open line of communication is so important, where employees feel supported and willing to talk.
Perhaps surprisingly it can be easier to spots the signs of behaviour change at work than at home because we see people in a more routine setting in the workplace.
If you think you, or someone you know may be suffering here are some of the most common physical and non-physical symptoms of mental ill health:
8 ways to make your workplace more mentally aware
- Find out what other businesses are doing and learn from them.
- A mentally healthy workplace can be built on the back of good basic line management relationships, clear HR policy and engagement of staff in decision making.
- Review the way your business works to ensure your culture is as mentally healthy as possible – each business is unique, as are your employees so make sure to devise a strategy personalised to your environment.
- Talk to your senior staff about improving workplace mental health – develop an approach that creates awareness and offers support for everyone. You could designate dedicated mental health officers to take it to the top and make sure initiatives and training schemes are implemented.
- Get knowledgeable about mental health at work by reading up about the subject and committing to mental health awareness training,
- Provide opportunities for managers to attend relevant training to learn how to support their staff living with mental health problems and the general wellbeing of all staff.
- Enforce the message that discrimination is unacceptable, including discrimination against those with mental ill-health – do not treat any one differently in terms of their capability to do their job.
- Support national and worldwide mental health initiatives such as Stress Awareness Day, Mental Health Awareness Day and Time to Change.
Stress Awareness Day
Coming up in early November is National Stress Awareness Day, which encourages us to think about our wellbeing and seek advice if needed. Whilst stress is inevitable in our lives – whether professional, personal or both – it needs to be managed well, or else it can be detrimental to our mental health and lead to bigger problems down the line.
BiteSize Learning offers short, impactful Mental Health Awareness training to help managers understand and spot the warning signs of mental ill health, feel equipped to offer support and advice and promote positive mental health in the workplace.