Mental Health Awareness Week: How To Manage Mental Health in Your Workplace
With overworking and work stress harming the wellbeing of many Britons, Mental Health Awareness Week is a good opportunity for bosses to remove the stigma from their officeJermaine Haughton
From multi-millionaire footballers to your local tradesperson to seasoned military personnel, depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health issues can affect us all.
With approximately a quarter of people in the UK likely to experience a mental health issue each year, and stress being a leading cause of workplace absence, Mental Health Awareness Week draws the attention of employers on how their policies, measures and actions are either helping or hindering the mental health issues of their staff.
CMI’s own Quality of Working Life study showed long hours, an ‘always on’ culture and poor management are leading more than half of managers to higher stress levels. The report showed a link between working longer hours and suffering from increased headaches, irritability and insomnia, all early symptoms of mental health problems and potential burnout.
Of the 1,574 managers surveyed, nearly seven in ten (77%) work for at least an additional hour each day, adding up to an extra 29 days over the course of a year. Up to 10% of managers say they put in more than three extra hours each day, the equivalent of working a 15-month year.
Considering the large amount of time people spend at work, employers are in a unique position to put strategies in place to help employees with mental health issues. Therefore, effective management is essential in how successful stress is handled and treated in the workplace.
Do you give confidence and motivation to your team, or extra pressure and fear? The CMI report found the worst management styles are shown to generate up to four times more stress than the best.
More than a quarter (28%) of those reporting that their line managers are “secretive” or “suspicious” feel stressed, compared to just 7% of those who believe their managers empower them to take their own decisions.
CMI head of research Patrick Woodman said helping and encouraging personnel enjoy a balanced work and personal life is key to lowering stress at work.
“Mental Health Awareness Week should serve as a reminder to employers of the importance of tackling the causes of stress in the workplace,” he said. “Stress can cause both illness and physical and emotional exhaustion. Our recent research found that the average manager in the UK works an extra 29 days over the course of a year, with over half of managers saying their working hours have a negative impact on their stress levels.
“Employers must improve the wellbeing of their workforce. It’s often the case that bad managers are one of the main causes of stress in the workplace. Good, skilled managers know they need to switch off and allow their employees to do the same. Tackling the ‘always on’ culture of constantly checking emails on smartphones and tablets out of office hours, as well as championing inclusive working cultures will have a positive impact on the workplace.”
Helping employees strike the necessary work/life balance must be a priority in facing up to the challenge of improving workplace stress,” he added.
Steps are being taken
Research by Punter Southall Health & Protection in association with the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA), Employee Wellbeing Research 2017: The evolution of workplace wellbeing in the UK, suggests more employers are incorporating staff mental health care and support as a core part of their business.
More than half (56%) of employers said mental health support is one of the most effective wellbeing initiatives for their business, together with employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and on-site medical support.
Overall, 45% of companies have a clearly-defined wellbeing strategy in place, compared to less than a third (30%) in 2016, according to the research. Furthermore, 82% of these strategies now include mental health, with a further 15% of employers saying they plan to add mental health initiatives to their strategy in 2017.
Head of wellbeing consulting Beate O’Neil said managers are essential for providing the early intervention support to employees with mental health conditions which is proven to significantly expedite recovery.
“It’s important that employers start to proactively manage the mental health of their staff to tackle issues before they escalate,” he said. “A happy and healthy workforce is likely to be a more productive and engaged workforce, so looking after employee wellbeing - both mentally and physically - is a win-win for everyone.
“It’s widely recognised that an important part in helping someone suffering from mental health issues is to give them a safe and secure environment to discuss their problems. Talking is often the first step on the road to recovery.
“EAPs and employer provided counselling services have a vital role in enabling such conversations to take place.”
CMI’s recommendations for improving the quality of working life
1. Improve the ability to manage change
Some 97% of managers’ report some degree of organisational change, yet just a fifth see a connection with improved decision-making. Focusing on behaviours and measuring the impacts of change are crucial in tackling this leading cause of stress.
2. Develop better line managers
Line managers have a critical role to play in driving employee engagement. More open, empowering management styles are connected with lower levels of stress, higher job satisfaction and greater personal productivity
3. Switch off
Avoiding digital presenteeism means giving colleagues the license to switch off. Colleagues can often be their own worst enemies, and while personal choice is key, options such as restricting remote access should be considered.
4. Empower your people
One of the most powerful drivers of job satisfaction is a personal sense of achievement. Where innovative, entrepreneurial and empowering management styles are found, more than 84% of managers are satisfied with their jobs.
5. Improve wellbeing
People are not assets to be driven to destruction, it is important to monitor metrics such as morale and illness to identify destructive habits.