According to the World Health Organization (WHO) – depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity. Poor workplace mental health and wellbeing costs the UK around £42 – £45 billion annually according to Deloitte’s 2019 report.
But even dealing with figures and reports, it’s important not to forget the personal -and often silent- struggles for some employees.
A staggering 89% of employees will tell you that their struggles have affected their working lives – yet less than half of employees diagnosed will go to their Managers about such a concern.
Why do mental health problems arise in the workplace?
Mental health challenges in the workplace can result from external sources or internal sources, sometimes you would see a combination of both.
An example of this is where an employee is trying to deal with a personal issue, which could be due to grief, loss, family worries or financial troubles. If you add in additional work pressures on top of this, this can result in someone experiencing a mental health event in the workplace.
Presenteeism is a term used by mental health professionals to explain how many employees are present for day-to-day activities, yet they get less done during the job and continue to struggle.
When left unnoticed or untreated, work quality suffers, and a productive workday is close to impossible.
Are managers responsible for supporting an employee’s mental health?
As more companies prepare to navigate the landscape during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, those in leadership positions might notice signs of burnout, anxiety, and PTSD. Those long-term issues could stem from work or personal problems at home.
But regardless of where they come from, feeling stressed of experiencing mental health problems would significantly affect an employee’s ability to perform at work.
Thus, the role of a manager or leader is to spark dialogue and support their employees in these uncertain times.
As more companies navigate the landscape during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, those in leadership & management positions are key to noticing signs of mental health issues.
The role of a manager or leader is to spark dialogue, build trust and support their employees in these uncertain times.
Benefits of managers supporting employee mental health
- Transparency between employees and their managers. Research tells us that up to 6% of employees will not tell their managers if they experience a mental health issue. Commonly, it’s the stigma that comes with being viewed as ‘mentally ill’ that holds them back or fear that it could jeopardise an employee’s job.
- Working to build psychological safety in a culture of trust will enable employees to be more comfortable discussing these issues with their manager.
- They say a problem shared is a problem halved, whether that’s true or not – managers can offer help & support, but the employee must feel comfortable to open up.
- Implementing a support system will ensure action is taken early before the situation worsens.
How can managers support positive mental health in the workplace?
- Have regular one-on-one conversations
1:1 conversation is a great way to chat, encourage discussion and give & receive feedback.
If a manager notices a decline in work productivity or the overall mood of an employee, they should have a catch-up call/meeting with that employee to check in on them to gauge their wellbeing.
Some questions managers can ask their employees: –
- How are you?
- I’ve noticed that your mood has been a bit off recently, is everything okay?
- What can I do to help?
Depending on the answer to these questions, managers can provide support to their employees by making any changes to work practices where possible or practical.
Managers could suggest some time off – or where necessary, escalate to HR for additional support.
- Promote team camaraderie & belonging
Regular informal and formal catchups and huddles are a great way to build a feeling of belonging.
They encourage open communications within the team; throw in some fun team activities and this will help break down barriers and build trust within the team.
The world of work has changed over the past 12 months with a significant reduction in (physical) face time between colleagues and managers.
Research shows that employees are beginning to feel disjointed from the company’s bigger picture or end goal.
For managers, a connection is vital to reinforce the importance of community between team, company, and culture.
Team meetings and catch-ups, that celebrate the big wins or small ones are great for building rapport and belonging within the team.
Participation in company-wide events e.g. training, formal meetings or fun events are a great way to feel part of something bigger and foster that sense of community.
- Clarity of expectations
When employees know what’s expected of them in their role any anxiety can be lessened.
All employees should have their KPI’s, goals and expectations shared, discussed and agreed with them.
This will ensure consistency and fairness for individuals and the team whilst also eliminating any ambiguity.
- Offer help when you can
Managers should ask their team members:
- Are you okay?
- Is there is anything you need help or support with?
Such questions may seem simple, however, sometimes we overlook the simple things.
Yet, the truth remains.
One of the best ways to foster a mentally healthy workplace is by reaching out directly to employees, i.e. face to face, phone call or video call – not via emails or messages.
- Encourage a healthy work-life balance
Employees should always be encouraged to take time off/out when needed.
As a global company working through lots of different time zones, this presents challenges for employees who are collaborating in global teams. It’s important unless employees are assigned to a business-critical project or task, employees should turn off their notifications outside their regular working hours.
Communications will continue as other time zones work through their day, however, this does not mean that there is an expectation for employees to be “always online” and ready to respond.
Are wellbeing programmes beneficial?
Wellbeing programmes play their part in a culture of transparency and trust – where employees can feel safe to come forward to discuss any concerns.
Having an open conversations & communication process is key to helping and supporting employees where they are experiencing challenges.
Wellbeing programmes are beneficial as they can help employees by teaching employees the tools to build resilience and resilience which can boost positive mental health.