World Mental Health Day – celebrated annually on the 10th of October, tomorrow – marks an important date for anyone dealing with, or exposed to, mental health. This day is particularly important for employers, who should take the opportunity to reflect on the current culture surrounding mental health in their workplace and identify what more can be done to support the wellbeing of their staff. Below Dr Zain Sikafi, CEO and Co-Founder of Mynurva, sheds light on the options for employers in the face of mental health across their business.
According to the charity Mind, one in six workers are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress – which can stop people performing at their best. Unfortunately, poor mental health takes a massive toll on the individual, the organisation they work in, and the wider economy. The Prime Minister’s 2017 ‘Thriving for Work’ report shed light on the gravity of the problem in the UK when it revealed that a staggering 300,000 people lose their jobs each year due to mental health problems – costing the national economy up to £99 billion every year.
Addressing the mental wellbeing of staff should therefore be a priority for employers and World Mental Health Day is an ideal time to begin a conversation around this pressing topic. Fostering a supportive workplace culture is crucial, and this can be done by promoting an active discussion on mental-ill health and ensuring employees are aware of available support mechanisms.
Create an open environment
Poor mental wellbeing can prevent a workplace from thriving. To demonstrate this point, Soma Analytics carried out a study in 2017 which showed that FTSE100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by a whole 10%.
Making employees feel valued is essential when creating an open environment whereby professionals feel comfortable speaking up about their struggles. Try to encourage employee engagement, which can be extremely effective for building morale, communication and happiness. Holding in-house discussions and training, for instance, can promote greater openness, and allows staff to provide personal feedback about what changes can be made to better address employee needs in the workplace.
As much of the negative stigma surrounding mental health comes from common misconceptions and a lack of understanding, educating staff about common mental health issues is also important in removing the stigma and encouraging employees to openly seek help and support.
Get employees out of the office
The benefits of fresh air and exercise cannot be overlooked. When possibly, try to get employees out of the office, as this can be great for increasing morale and supporting staff wellbeing – both physical and mental.
A great way to do this is to hold outdoor teambuilding events or even host professional training days outside. Encouraging employees to get involved in exercise-focused events like cycle and running clubs or yoga classes can not only foster more positive relationships within the workplace, but can drastically reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.
Promote available support mechanisms
It is important that staff feel like they can speak up about their struggles and obtain the support that they need to address and overcome any mental health issues. Clear support mechanisms should be established in every workplace and actively promoted.
However, for many professionals, speaking up about mental health problems at work can be incredibly daunting. Pointing employees towards alternative support mechanisms outside of work, such as live video counselling apps, can give them the option of getting the support that they need without having to involve colleagues or managers.
HealthTech solutions like Mynurva, for instance, offer an online platform which enables people to receive counselling via a live video call. What’s more, this innovation provides the convenience of quick booking, flexible working times – and is completely confidential. Those reluctant to open up about their struggles can be safe in the knowledge that there are other options that are readily accessible to them.
Poor mental health within the workplace is a pressing issue in the UK, with many employees failing to access the support that they need. All employers can take simple steps to promote a positive workplace environment that addresses the needs of their staff. Creating an open culture where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health can not only promote individual mental wellbeing, but can also drastically improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace. What’s more, employers should also encourage HealthTech solutions like apps which ensure employees are able to readily access support confidentially.