17th May 2019
By Mark Dickinson, Partner
Mental health problems are the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, with a staggering 70 million work days lost each year. This costs employers approximately £2.4 billion per year (according to the Mental Health Foundation). It’s been proven that companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform those that don’t. So what can you do to make a difference?
To coincide with #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek we’ve been thinking about ways to look after your staff’s mental health. Which will in turn boost wellbeing and engagement in the workplace.
Employees may be scared to talk to their manager about their mental health. Mind UK found that 30 percent of staff disagreed with the statement, ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’. To counteract this encourage mental health champions, people from all levels, to talk openly about mental health. Keep the conversation flowing with regular blogs, fact sheets, top tips for managers, useful web links and FAQs. Similarly, use posters, noticeboards, staff newsletters, magazines, and your intranet to spread the message.
Teams take cues from how leaders behave. So send a clear message that staff wellbeing matters and is being prioritised. Encourage staff to take lunch breaks, work sensible hours and avoid working at weekends. Additionally, make sure they rest and recuperate after busy periods, and take their full annual leave entitlement. When in the office, promote regular exercise, getting away from screens during breaks, and offer healthy snacks.
Ensure staff are given information on how mental health is managed at your workplace. Be sure to let them know what support is available to them as part of their induction. Additionally, encourage managers to have supportive conversations with staff, as a culture of openness will go a long way. Speak regularly with team members to check how they are doing and reflect on what might be causing them stress.
Employees need to be valued, supported, and feel that their work is meaningful. Wellbeing and engagement is negatively affected if they feel excluded from key knowledge and conversations. Or if they feel unable to feed their views upwards. Therefore you should be open about the company’s strategic vision. Similarly, try to involve staff in decision-making wherever possible. This will help to ensure they understand how their role fits within the bigger picture. Provide development opportunities and invest in their skills. This will further build trust and integrity. You can do this in cost-effective ways by using skills and knowledge within the organisation to develop coaching, learning, training and job-shadowing opportunities.
Creating a mutually supportive environment will allow good working relationships to thrive, promote positive behaviours and avoid conflict. Ensure robust policies on bullying and harassment are in place. Furthermore, make sure staff are able to request meetings outside of normal hours to discuss anything important. Encourage peer support, mentoring and buddy systems to develop cross-department connections, transfer skills and experience. Sometimes people find it easier to speak to someone who isn’t their manager, or even within their team. Therefore, it’s important to encourage regular social events to boost teamwork.
What action has your organisation taken to combat stress and to promote staff wellbeing? Do you have any positive experiences that you can share?
At Wise & Co we see our staff as one big family. That is why we do plenty of social events throughout the year, including summer BBQs, sporting events, curry nights, bowling, pub quizzes and our Christmas do!
Mark is Head of Wise & Co’s charity and not for profit team, and our HR partner. He joined Wise & Co as a trainee in 1987 and over the years he has worked on a wide range of clients ranging from those in the charity and not for profit sector to owner managed businesses and legal practices. He maintains a very practical approach to problem solving, dovetailing technical advice with an organisation’s or a business’ overall aspirations for the future.