World Mental Health Day provides a great opportunity for employers in all spheres to reflect on mental health within their workplace – and what can be done to promote positive mental health outcomes amongst all employees. Dr Zain Sikafi, CEO and co-founder, Mynurva, reports.
Sadly, while this day is important for raising awareness, the initiative hasn’t resulted in any substantial changes. In fact, a 2017 survey by the St Patrick’s Mental Health Services revealed that 28% people in Ireland had previously been treated for a mental health difficulty themselves, while 44% reported having a family member who had been treated for a mental health issue. Unfortunately, almost two thirds (64%) believed that being treated for a mental health difficulty is seen as a sign of personal failure.
It’s clear that more needs to be done within all organisations to actively promote staff wellbeing. So what measures can employers take to support mental place in the workplace?
Create an open environment
Addressing the needs of employees and looking after their mental health within the workplace should be a top priority for all employers. After all, poor mental health can be detrimental to staff productivity, as well as their job satisfaction and motivation.
The first step is to promote awareness of mental health issues and encourage an open discussion. Participating in discussions and training, for instance, can promote greater openness, and allows staff to provide personal feedback about what changes can be made to better address employee needs in the workplace.
Much of the negative stigma surrounding mental health comes from common misconceptions and a lack of understanding, so educating staff about common mental health issues is also important in removing the stigma and encouraging employees to speak out and support each other.
On a similar note, making employees feel valued and heard is essential to creating an open environment where professionals feel comfortable speaking up about their struggles. Try to encourage employee engagement and participation, as this is extremely important for building morale and improving communication in the workplace.
Get employees out of the office
The benefits of fresh air and exercise cannot be overlooked. A great way to do this is to hold outdoor team-building events or even host professional training days outside. Encouraging employees to get involved in exercise-focused events like running clubs or yoga classes can not only foster more positive relationships within the workplace, but can drastically reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.
Proactive support at work
It is important that staff feel like they can speak up about their struggles and obtain the support that they need to address and overcome any mental health issues. Clear support mechanisms should be established in every workplace, and there should be actively promoted to ensure widespread awareness amongst employees.
However, many professionals find it daunting speaking out about their struggles at work. The 2017 Mental Health at Work Report revealed that while three out of every five employees had experiences mental health issues in the past year because of work, only 13% of people felt able to disclose a mental health issue to their line manager. In fact, around three out of every four employees with a mental health issue chose not to involve anyone at work – the main barriers cited being a reluctance to make it formal and fears of negative consequences.
By taking proactive measures, employers within all organisations can encourage positive mental health outcomes and foster an open culture within the workplace. To tackle the pressing national mental health problem, it’s crucial that companies take positive steps towards ensuring their employees can access mental health support, as well as promoting awareness and ensuring employees feel comfortable speaking out about their struggles.