February 18, 2020
Whose Responsibility is Mental Health in the Workplace?
Did you know that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime?
With one in four UK adults reporting mental health issues in the last year, finding peace at work could be the secret to living a happy and healthy life.
While we rarely use ‘mental health’ and ‘work’ in the same sentence, growing awareness for wellbeing in the workplace is changing the way employers care for their people.
Whether it’s HR teams helping employees overcome personal bereavement or breaking down taboos with a supportive company culture, the workplace can play a major role in employee happiness.
Join us in tackling one of the most pressing issues for contemporary employers as we ask who is responsible for mental health in the workplace?
Why Is Mental Health at Work Important?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how employers can tackle mental health issues at work, let’s look at why mental wellbeing is important for employers.
A happy and healthy workforce helps to:
- Boost morale. Lifting the spirits of your employees and helping them through difficult times can create a positive and energetic environment. Negativity in the workplace is contagious — employers must focus on the happiness of individuals to create healthy teams.
- Productivity. If an employee is suffering from mental health issues, any drop in mood or change in mentality can show in their work. Whether it’s turning up late to work or an overall drop in their pace of work, there’s a strong link between productivity and mental positivity.
- Extended periods of leave. Just as a physical illness can cost employers thousands, a mental health issue carries the same weight. If employers take a proactive stance of tackling mental health, they can help to resolve problems before they get out of hand.
- Make employees feel valued. Building an open company culture where employees feel understood can increase overall workplace satisfaction. Instead of pushing issues under the carpet, the best employers will listen to their people and offer support where they need it most.
Do You Need a Mental Health in the Workplace Policy?
In short, yes.
Mental health requires the same (if not more) level of care and attention as physical illnesses or injuries. Just as you wouldn’t ask someone with a broken leg to work on the factory floor, you can’t expect an employee with mental health issues to jump into work with a spring in their step.
Employers have turned a blind eye to mental wellbeing for far too long. Creating a mental health policy at work is a step in the right direction towards mental wellbeing receiving the attention and respect it deserves.
Whether you’re a huge corporation with a dedicated HR team or a small enterprise with a handful of employees, mapping out a concrete plan of action to support employees through difficult times is essential.
How Can You Support Your Employees?
The first step towards promoting a positive company-wide attitude around mental health is to break down unfair stigmas. For decades, mental health sufferers have faced abuse and a sense of shame around speaking out in the workplace.
Failure to create an open environment for people to speak freely about their problems and ask for help is the start of a downward spiral.
The secret to creating a supportive company culture is to promote the idea that it’s “okay not to be okay.” Whether it’s struggling with depression or work-related stress, HR teams should create a safe space which encourages people to speak their mind.
Early detection of underlying mental health problems is the most effective way to resolve issues before they can grow arms and legs.
So, Who’s Responsible for Mental Wellbeing at Work?
While mental health remains an understudied and undervalued topic, growing awareness of its significance in the workplace is a step in the right direction.
In 2017, the UK government published the ‘Thriving at Work’ report. The findings offer HR teams a theoretical framework to create fair and supportive working environments. The report aims to deconstruct harmful stigmas around mental health and help sufferers move forward and thrive in what they do best.
The standards are designed to:
- Support businesses in creating workplace policies for mental wellbeing.
- Encourage open and judgment-free conversations between employees and HR professionals.
- Provide employees with formal guidance to monitor individuals and track their mental wellbeing.
Although mental health affects individuals, it is the responsibility of everyone to support those around them and break down unhealthy attitudes.
Does Your Workplace Promote Mental Wellbeing?
Next time you step into the office, take a moment to talk to your colleagues and ask them how they’re doing. Mental health issues can impact everyone.
While people might seem perfectly fine on the outside, cracks can begin to appear if people are forced to bottle-up their emotions. Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room and fuelling a toxic environment, the workplace is the perfect opportunity for employees to unite and grow as a team.
It’s time to speak out about mental wellbeing in the workplace and help those who are suffering in silence to find their voice.