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Wellbeing in the Workplace – A Focus on Mental Health

In June 2016, on her first day as Prime Minister, Theresa May spoke of “…a lack of mental health support as one of the burning injustices that blights our society.” She went on to say that she was “…determined to be the champion for people…” (who experience these issues). Since then, there has been a significant increase in the awareness of Mental Health issues and moreover in the workplace.

Recent studies show that 1 in 6 people in England experience a mental health problem and is one of the main causes for long term absence. In April 2019, 43% of workers attribute management style as a cause of stress, compared to 32% in 2018.

Not only does this impact an individual’s health and lifestyle but businesses are affected through absenteeism, replacement staff costs and reduced productivity.

Stress, anxiety and depression all come under the banner of Mental Health. There is no standard cause, but these issues may occur when someone feels under pressure to achieve targets or there is an imbalance in their workload, and they cannot express this to their manager/colleagues.

Now that companies are more enlightened to this prolific concern, what can they do to help alleviate this?

Firstly, employers should create an environment where their workers feel safe enough to approach and discuss their feelings. Being silent could eventually lead them to manifest their feelings in a volatile manner.

Next, provide relevant training so that line managers react in a supportive way and without the individual feeling judged. Management do not have to be trained psychiatrists but knowing how best to respond may not come naturally. The individual may just need a listening ear and wants to feel heard; especially if they consider the source of their anxiety is their place of employment.

Managers should then assess the situation and adjust workloads and/or work hours to suit both parties. Monitor the individual’s progress and agree follow-up meetings to ascertain if/when they can get back on track.

IRSMarketing recognises the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. All our staff have access to a third-party Employee Assistance Programme; a confidential (free of charge) employee benefit designed to help deal with personal and professional problems that may be affecting their home, work life and their general health.

In addition, we have 4 key personnel who have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders. Fixing the root of the issue is not their job but they provide initial help then guidance to the appropriate professional aid.

Here are some suggestions on how companies can improve their work environment.

1. Ensure your managers have the necessary tools for their role. A good worker does not always make a good manager, so equip them.

  • Provide training on how to be effective leaders.
  • Increase their understanding of mental health issues and how to identify certain behavioural patterns and symptoms in their team.
  • Help them improve their communication and people management skills through training.
  • Ensure that line managers set realistic targets for their teams.

2. Happy employees are undoubtedly more productive so make them feel valued:

  • Provide training where possible and motivate employees to develop and enhance their skillset. This keeps them engaged and committed to your organisation.
  • Communication is key so incite their feedback. Let them know their opinion matters and provide a forum for their voices to be heard. This could be anything from having an ideas/feedback box to carrying out an employee feedback survey.
  • Acknowledge good work performance and provide positive feedback. If all they hear is negative, without suggestions on how to improve, this will impact their mindset.

There is no fast and easy cure. Even with best intentions, telling someone to cheer up may not be the right thing to say at the time. When someone feels that their world is ending, it is difficult to shift their perception, but we can try. Consider looking at yourself to see how you can be more positive in your outlook. People can’t help but follow an optimist.

Our employees are the company’s most precious asset therefore we are committed to taking good care of their wellbeing to ensure our continued success.

Samantha Pullen
Training Manager, IRSMarketing

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