Last week marked World Mental Health Day and it was refreshing to see the news and social media platforms flooded with personal stories from celebrities and members of the public discussing the state of their mental health and the impact that honest conversations can have on improving it.
As Brits, we’re notorious for our stiff upper lip, especially in the post-war generation, but in recent years Prince Harry himself has warned that he believes this trait is somewhat responsible for the mental health problems suffered by one in six of 16 to 64-year-olds in Britain today.
Given we spend on average 39 of our 168 hours each week at work, mental health support and positive workplace environments are hugely important for our wellbeing. So what can employers do to tackle poor mental health?
Bye Bye 9 – 5
The accumulative impact of demanding work cultures and increased working hours are perhaps some of the most important challenges in tackling the poor mental health amongst the general population. The opportunity to work adjusted hours to suit your lifestyle, commute, family schedule and even additional jobs can have a hugely positive impact on employee mental health, as well as sleep quality, alertness and blood pressure.
Research shows that 12.7% of all sick days in the UK can be attributed to mental illness but with 55% of employees telling their employer they were physically ill rather than admitting mental health issues – businesses need to establish a culture of transparency and trust. Managers should have regular informal catch-ups with team members, developing strong relationships which invite open and honest conversation.
You’d expect any business you work for to have a designated and trained first aider, if not an entire team, so why should mental health be any different? Mental Health First Aid England has over 70 case studies demonstrating the effectiveness of training in increasing mental health awareness and confidence in how to effectively support an employee experiencing poor mental health.
British fashion retailer Next has recently taken the step to train numerous staff in this regard, recognising the importance in creating an open workplace in which mental health can be discussed without fear of judgement, and where employees requiring help can be supported in structured, tailored and effective ways.
Talk to each other!
It’s incredibly easy to walk into the office and go on autopilot mode, opening your laptop and logging in before getting stuck into the 100s of emails that came in after you left the office yesterday. Before you know it, it’s 2 pm and you’ve only left your desk and interacted with someone else when you were waiting for your tea to brew. For your own sake and for those sitting around you, have a conversation – you never know where it may lead and your colleague might be in desperate need of someone to talk to.
Mental health awareness should be more than a day in the calendar and we’re all responsible for being the change we want to see in the world.