Did you know 68% of HR Directors in the UK feel responsible for the health and wellbeing of their employees?
With a larger proportion of sickness absence days attributed to mental ill-health than 18 months ago, this data isn’t something to be ignored in the workplace. Mental ill-health can also contribute to physical health conditions, lower productivity, and reduced workplace morale. However, HR professionals can and do, take the necessary steps to ensure mental health strategies are in place in supporting employee wellbeing.
What Is HR’s Responsibility for Mental Health in the Workplace?
Initiatives aimed to improve the wellbeing of employees only succeed if they are monitored and solid in their approach. It’s far easier to implement a wellbeing strategy once you have collated data from employees and let the data speak for itself. This data might include:
- Financial impact of sickness
- Loss of time
- Staff turnover
Furthermore with instances like this, the law isn’t on the side of the business. Employers are obliged under the Health and Safety Work Act 1974 to support the wellbeing of their staff. Therefore HR managers need to record, manage and reduce health and safety risks. Workplace stress is included in the list of health and safety risks and in doing so employers should see a reduction in employee mental ill-health. During moments when employees are suffering, employers must make reasonable adjustments, in the same way this is done for physical health.
Why Hasn’t This Happened Yet?
In a study conducted by Aetna International, it is believed two-thirds of workers value mental health support in the workplace more so than they did 18 months ago. And whilst businesses do provide, and take seriously, the support of mental health at work it has only been in more recent months companies have the right understanding to do so.
Despite such efforts, employers often overestimate how effective their approach is. With the growing trend of remote work, the support becomes even less effective. Nonetheless, data shows there has been a slow but steady improvement in workplace mental health support since the outbreak of COVID-19. In the same study by Aetna International, 33% of workers believe the current standard for workplace mental health support is ‘good’. Whilst in a pre-pandemic world only 25% of workers believed the standard of mental health support offered was ‘good’.
What Data Can Teach Us About Implementing a Strategy?
Mental health issues will continue to be present, it would be impossible to live in a world where bad mental health doesn’t exist. However prevention is possible. As a business, whether you’re a HR manager or director when looking at your data you might see correlations in your findings. These might include; increased sickness for mental health illness, or high staff turnover.
With this you can implement a data-driven approach and build a bridge between those gaps. Such initiatives might be the need for a healthy annual leave entitlement, or the option to work remotely. Together these two flexibilities help to improve the wellbeing of employees whereby they have the option to work to their the best of abilities within their individual means.
Reduce The Stigma
Positive workplace culture is extremely important in fostering a healthy workforce. Most adults will encounter a mental health issue at some stage of their working lives and a workplace that promotes and values their employees creates a space where employees can be themselves and talk openly.
Inviting external speakers to talk about their journey can be thought provoking for even those who are cynical about mental health. Not only does it encourage senior leaders to talk about their personal experience but it inspires the entire workforce to act.
Whilst it is encouraging to see such improvements, the opportunity to be proactive as opposed to reactive still very much remains. The pandemic has had a widespread effect on everyone’s welfare and workplace stress can only aggravate existing symptoms.
It’s far more effective to be proactive in the management, and prevention, of mental health issues. Workplace mental health is a complex issue that changes in an employee life cycle due to leadership changes, staff turnover, culture changes, policy changes and training. Trying to tackle all issues at once is like trying to keep as many pans as possible from over boiling. Therefore taking a concentrated approach from the offset allows you to react where necessary.
In working towards a proactive workplace in mental health, communication is an integral component. Share the purpose of the business with your employees and give them a voice in the company vision along with growth opportunities.
Businesseses, whether large or small, do need a mental health approach. Mental health requires the same, (perhaps more) level of care as physical illness. Creating initiatives without putting them to use isn’t enough. However, mapping out a concrete plan and referring to it during difficult moments is essential in banishing the stigma and being better equipped for future issues.
There are many resources available to equip businesses with the correct guidance and support in developing the most effective protocol.
Can we help? At Everymind at Work we not only aim to destigmatise the nature of mental health in the workplace, we aim to normalise the conversation around it. We also offer various training schemes for businesses looking to develop their wellbeing strategies. For more information or to sign up, head here.