For many of us, work is a major part of our lives. It’s how we earn our income and is often the place where we socialise and build friendships. When things are going well, the workplace can be a fulfilling place to be. But we all experience times when life gets on top of us, and increased stress – especially when prolonged – can lead to anxiety, poor performance at work, depression, and burnout.
Despite awareness of mental health increasing over recent years, it’s often still a taboo subject at work. No one wants to give the impression that they’re overwhelmed or can’t handle the job, nor have their problems belittled or feel that they’re being treated differently.
Importantly too, everyone handles stress and significant life events differently. What may seem run of the mill to one person could create high levels of anxiety for another, so it’s essential for employers to think about individuals when managing stress in the workplace.
With the list of factors affecting mental health being so extensive (challenging situations at home, relationship difficulties, physical health issues, family bereavements, financial worries and high workloads being just a few), employers may wonder how much of an impact they can actually make when supporting the mental well-being of their staff.
However, looking at the statistics around work-related stress, it’s clear to see action is needed and that employers have a responsibility to protect their staff, particularly those at risk or with existing issues.
17.9 million working days lost in the UK due to work-related stress
An HSE (Health and Safety Executive) report published in November 2020 found that 17.9 million working days were lost in the UK during 2019/20 due to work-related stress, depression, or anxiety (Labour Force Survey).
That number has been increasing steadily year on year since 2014/15 and larger workplaces (250+ employees) have a statistically significant higher rate.
The main cause of this work-related stress was cited as workload, especially tight deadlines, too much work or too much pressure. However, lack of managerial support, organisational changes and bullying were also identified as factors.
Sadly, these statistics are backed up by a CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) report published in April 2021 which found 79% of HR professionals reporting some stress related absence in their organisation during 2020, rising to 91% in organisations with 250+ employees.
Again, workload and management style were found to be the most common causes.
Interestingly though, studies have found that good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand.
Creating a positive mental health culture in the workplace
When organisations create a positive mental health culture in the workplace, employees feel safer to be themselves and know when and how to reach out for help when it’s needed. In turn, this can lead to:
- Lower absenteeism
- Higher staff retention rates
- Increased productivity and employee performance
- Less workplace harassment
- Improved work-life balance
For anyone interested in implementing a positive mental health culture in their workplace, we’ve listed some important steps to get you started. However, we also urge you to also check out the resources section at the end of this article.
- Lead by example
When it comes to creating an open and supportive culture, the senior management team are the people who set the tone and demonstrate an expectation which then runs throughout the whole organisation. This can be done by speaking openly about mental health issues and, importantly, prioritising their own mental well-being to send a clear signal to everyone else.
- Implement a mental health policy
A mental health policy gives employees and management a framework to follow, highlighting how you intend to acknowledge and support employees who are struggling. It also demonstrates a commitment to mental health and should be communicated so everyone understands the content.
We recommend speaking with an HR professional such as tenant business Black Kat HR for advice but the HR services organisation, Croner have a free download of a sample to get you started. The type of areas you’ll need to cover include:
- How mental health problems will be treated
- How issues will be identified and resolved
- How staff experiencing mental health issues will be supported
- How you plan to maintain a healthy work environment
- Make help available
It’s useful to have information on hand to signpost staff towards, including well-being articles and videos, local support organisations, helpful websites, and information on how to help themselves or colleagues in need.
Other ideas include offering mental health days for employees, giving time for their emotional well-being, along with regular onsite massages, gym membership and paying for access to meditation apps such as Headspace. Check out how tenant business UCE has linked up with one on site provider on the fascinating case study here.
Our ‘Resources’ section below also has details of support for employers, individuals and Barnsley specific organisations.
- Create a better awareness of mental health
By helping managers, colleagues and individuals understand the various elements of mental health, it can provide an insight on how to support anyone who may be suffering. Mental health first aid training courses can also help with spotting the signs earlier, enabling any work-related issues to be dealt with before they become a bigger problem. Asking people how they are feeling on a regular basis is a quick and easy step to implement.
- Encourage self-care and open communication
Actively supporting employees facing mental health problems can help break down the stigma of mental health and show that it’s ok to discuss at work. One great way to do this is by encouraging managers to lead by example and openly discuss their own experiences and issues. Chatting regularly about out of work activities, family and general well-being also encourages self-care.
Here at The Business Village, we’re looking at a variety of ideas to help people look after their mental health and de-stress while at work. One is the creation of a green well-being walk onsite where individuals can either wander around on their own or join a guided lunchtime walk.
“We’re hoping that a well-being walk will make it more appealing for people to get away from their desks and take a walk. Just 15 minutes outside, getting a bit of gentle exercise can help to reduce anxiety levels and release tension.” Steph Cronin, mental health champion at The Business Village
Some organisations may find that developing a proactive and positive approach to mental health and well-being will mean a big cultural transformation. However, with the challenge comes benefits such as increased staff motivation, better engagement, improved teamwork, lower absence, and lower employee turnover.
To help business owners, managers and individuals with mental health at work, we’ve listed some helpful resources below, including the support which can be found right here in The Business Village community.
The Equality Act (2010) covers most people with ongoing mental health problems, giving protection from discrimination and harassment plus entitlement to reasonable adjustments to their job or work.
Health and safety legislation keeps employees safe from hazards, including psychological ones. The HSE has Management Standards to help with developing a risk assessment and discussion of practical improvements.
The Human Rights Act 1988 applies to public authorities such as the government, police, NHS and local authorities rather than private employers, giving individuals with mental health problems the right to be treated with dignity and respect by staff and service providers.
Support for employers
Mental Health at work:
Website created by Mind, Heads Together and the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The Mental Health Foundation:
Headspace meditation app:
General support for individuals
Mind – mental health charity:
This is Calmer (blog):
Barnsley 24-hour mental health helpline:
0800 183 0558
South Yorkshire helplines:
Click this link
Free of charge helpline 116 123 (24/7/365)
Andy’s Man Club – nationwide mental health support talking clubs, open every Monday from 7pm
Creative Recovery – Barnsley:
Barnsley based charity using creativity to support recovery and boost well-being (groups include art, walking, choir and community projects)
List of mental health charities on the NHS website:
Support from The Business Village community
BY Be You – Bekki Youell:
Dance, sports massage and cryotherapy treatments
Hypnotherapy to treat physical and mental health conditions
Sharon O’Shea Counselling Services:
Counselling services from age 16+
S75 Fitness has been created to bring fitness, wellness and mental health all under one roof.
Talking Box Psychotherapy:
Psychological therapies for a variety of mental health issues
Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details of their desk to 5k group
Mel Wright Massage Therapy
Deep tissue massage, sports massage, MOT massage and Top-to-Toe relaxation massage