Mental health is now being taken much more seriously in the workplace. It’s hard not to when an average of 12.5 million working days are lost to the UK economy each year according to the Economics Foundation. Many employers are providing counselling support and interventions for sufferers which is quite clearly a good thing compared to what happened in the past.
Wouldn’t it be much more sensible however, if employers provided early interventions before people started to suffer and develop such serious issues that they needed to take extended periods of time off or even give up work altogether?
It’s a no brainer to say that people are more likely to have better mental health when they feel positive and good about themselves. In the workplace this is likely to happen when they feel valued by their employer and their colleagues. When they have purpose which fits with the job they are doing and when they have a good work life balance. This is all something that it is within the power of an employer to do something about. Organisations need to talk to their staff and find out what is important to them and what motivates them and then they need to act on this information.
Here’s a few ideas for the enlightened employer:
Loneliness and social isolation are a huge issue even in a big, busy workplace. People are often afraid for their jobs, especially in the current climate and they don’t want to be earmarked as a trouble maker. All too often this causes enormous stress leading to serious mental health issues. All the more reason then for employers to take the initiative and provide a safe environment for people to talk and share their feelings and also to get their staff to take the time to get to know each other. One extremely innovative way of doing this is to engage social enterprise project 5asideCHESS team and their Battling Suicide Bus. The team are currently on a year long tour of universities and business around the UK with their short version of chess which has huge mental health benefits and acts as an ice breaking tool to get people to open up and really talk.
Feeling good about your body helps you to feel good in your mind and employers are starting to understand that they need to do more to help their staff keep healthy. Whether this means bringing in a yoga or mindfulness teacher once a week, providing staff with a pedometer and running a competition to encourage them to take more steps each day or getting a couple of exercise bikes for people to use while they have a meeting; the cost to the organisation is nothing compared to the cost of time taken off sick.
Allowing staff to work from home either all or part of the time is, of course, another way employers can help with work life balance. For staff who want to reduce their commute but don’t want the distractions or loneliness of working home alone, employers could consider paying for their staff to work in a shared work space close to their home. Staff would then retain the sociable aspect of working with others but also potentially, through working alongside different people from different industries, they have access to other skills and collaborative projects which could be of great value to the business. Not only that but rather than commute by car or train, the employee could then consider cycling to work, making them healthier and being more environmentally friendly in the process.
Finally, helping employees find purpose in their work is likely to not only raise their self esteem but also to increase productivity. Encouraging staff to mentor and share their skills with other people, either within the organisation or within their wider industry will have a positive impact both on themselves and the business as a whole.
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