Mental health in the work place is often an overlooked topic. But as workers continue to feel stressed and overwhelmed in their jobs, what can companies do to help their workforce? Charities are now urging the government to remove stigma and take serious action in improving mental health among the workforce.
According to a recent survey in conjunction with UK Construction Week and Mates in Mind charity, six out of ten workers in construction have suffered mental ill-health because of work.
Charities are now urging companies to commit to long-term improvements on mental health awareness within their work places, rather than running short-term awareness campaigns and one-off training.
“We are deeply concerned to see a rise in this figure, despite the attention that has been given to suicide prevention and increased awareness of mental health in recent years,” James Rudoni, Managing Director, Mates in Mind said.
“The work that Mates in Mind is doing to further raise awareness, address the stigma and improve mental wellbeing throughout workplaces across construction and associated industries, continues unabated. And over the last three years, this interest hasn’t dropped off, in fact just the opposite.
“A significant part of the work that we do is to provide real understanding and clarity around the issue of mental health. Signposting and supporting organisations to deliver the right support for their workforce. It is vital that organisations realise that this requires them to listen, encourage and support employees, rather than simply running short-term awareness campaign or one-off training.”
Organisations who have adopted more long-term holistic approaches to spearheading their mental health campaigns have seen an “improvement in sickness absence rates, improved staff retention rates and more engaged workforces”, Mr Rudoni said.
“We are seeing the evidence from an increasing number of our Supporter organisations that taking a ‘whole organisation’ approach is having both quantifiable and qualitative impact. Amongst the benefits we are witnessing are improved sickness absence rates, improved staff retention rates and more engaged workforces.
According to new statistics by Tideway, there has been a 12% rise in the number of staff who felt they could approach their boss with a mental health problem – up from 64% in 2017 to 76% in 2018.
SME firm RSE Building reported a nine percent rice of staff feeling support in mental health – up from 66% in 2018 to 75% in 2019.
Mr Rudoni stressed the importance of creating a safe space for employees to discuss their mental health and get the relevant support they need.
“It is important to create space to talk about mental health at work, and through improved awareness, increase individual’s understandings of how and where they can get support,” he said. “That is why we are so pleased to be a partner supporting Public Health England’s campaign Every Mind Matters – enabling individuals to understand and better manage their own mental health.
“But the fact remains, employers, must do more to ensure that the environments in which their workers are operating are improved to sustain an individual’s mental wellbeing, and in turn their businesses overall.”
It is not just employees who are under pressure. Even CEOs of companies often feel the pressure to keep working, and often skip their yearly vacation to do so.
18 percent of CEOs in the UK haven’t taken a holiday over the last 12 to 24 months, according to a survey by Vistage, a business performance and leadership advancement organisation for SMEs.
This is because many CEOs believe having an “always on” boss gives their employees the impression they must do the same, but Geoff Lawrence, UK Managing Director of Vistage, believes this can hinder company productivity in the long-term. “Overworked business leaders make poor decisions and set a bad example for their employees, which can adversely impact organisational culture,” he said.
It is important for CEOs to analyse their company structure, and if their short absence already creates problems within teams, they must urgently address any areas in need of improvement, according to Philip White, Vistage member and MD of Audacia Consulting.
“If you are needed in the office at all times, perhaps there is a fundamental issue with the company,” he said. “If a business struggles in the short absence of senior executives, it is an indication of a lack of leadership at the company, and potentially signals a broader problem. CEOs and business owners must make it their charge to empower their team to think independently and to take on more responsibility.”
Despite everyone’s busy lives, it is important to take a step back and maintain healthy boundaries between work and your personal life.
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “Despite our busy lives, modern technology means that many workers are now contactable around the clock. While many staff have to work outside their normal working hours from time to time, we all need a break from work to unwind and de-stress.
“Checking our emails outside work makes it difficult to maintain boundaries between our jobs and personal lives. It’s not acceptable for staff to be expected to send and receive work emails at all hours. Employers and managers need to ensure this relentless email-checking culture doesn’t become the norm.
“Encouraging a clear work/life balance is just one thing employers need to do to create a mentally healthy workplace. Employers can promote good wellbeing by encouraging staff to leave work at work so they can come back refreshed and rejuvenated.
Even a small gesture, such as making a coffee or tea for your colleague and having a chat about their day can make all the difference to someone. There are various inexpensive measures employers can put in place to promote good mental health in the workplace. Not only will this increase staff morale, it can even increase productivity in the long-run. Take care of your employees first, and the rest will follow, as Richard Branson always says.