World Mental Health Day: What can employers do to support their teams?
There’s never been a more important time to prioritise employee mental health. The pandemic has changed all aspects of our lives, not least our working situation. Whether you’re returning to the office, working from home or following a hybrid working pattern, there’s no doubt that the last 18 months has had an effect on our mental health when it comes to work.
While it’s key for individuals to be aware of their mental health, it’s also incredibly important that businesses support their teams’ mental health. After all, British workers will spend an average of 3,515 full days at work over the course of their lifetime, so a focus on employee mental health should be a top priority for all businesses.
Mental health in an unequal world
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is 'Mental Health in an Unequal World'.
This theme will highlight that access to mental health services remains unequal, with between 75% to 95% of people in low and middle-income countries unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high income countries is not much better. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the effects of inequality on mental health provisions. Even in high-income countries like the UK, the economic impact of COVID with job insecurity, losses and even the lack of social contact not being in an office with other colleagues.
While some of us have loved working from home and seen the benefits of having lunch with our loved ones or packing in more time for exercise or other hobbies, others have struggled to work from a single room in a shared house where the reality of the same four walls, day-in and day out, is taking an understandable toll.
What can employers do?
As much as possible, companies should aim to deliver a personalised approach to mental health. This can be tricky in businesses of any size, but it’s important to remember that simply throwing in a few ad-hoc nods to mental health isn’t really going to cut it. What may work for one employee might not work for another.
Business leaders should lead the charge with a proper plan and approach, and be really clear with their teams that everyone has mental health and it’s not a constant. Encouraging team members to keep an eye on their mood over time, perhaps by using a suitable app, can really help them be mindful of their own mental health and also help them to talk about changes in how they are feeling or coping.
Listening to and supporting employees is important, now more than ever: it’s all too easy when we’re rushing from one Zoom call to the next, to forget to check in on people as individuals and just ask them how they’re doing. Everyone has a different context and just listening to someone by asking how they are feeling is a really good place to start.
Encouraging open and honest conversation amongst team members is also a great way to support your teams’ mental health. Whether it’s anxiety about returning to the office, worries about travelling or general work stress, starting the conversation can be a significant barrier that people need help to overcome.
If you struggle to cope with your mental health, or just feel like the load would be better shared, seek professional help. There are loads of helplines that you can call for immediate advice and support, as well as online support communities such as Mind’s Side by Side.
Seeking help for mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, and you are not alone as one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
So, let’s talk about our mental health and break the stigma because #MentalHealthMatters.
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