Mental health is important in the workplace as failure to identify and manage has serious implications. It can cause a financial, personal and organisational strain on your business or organisation.
Mental health awareness is particularly important in the workplace. As a result of mental health related problems, millions of working days are lost every year. This costs an estimated £35 billion to the UK economy. Many people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed discussing these matters. And often become increasingly unable to cope due to a lack of action.
In addition to the financial cost of mental health problems, having an awareness of the importance of mental health can help workforces thrive. For a long time mental health problems have not been acknowledged and understood. They have been burdened with stigma and a sense of shame. This is now changing. Increasingly businesses are becoming aware of the power of mental health promotion. Consistently, studies are showing strong evidence that organisations that take mental health seriously and promote mental health awareness are more successful than organisations that do not.
Mental Health Awareness at Work
The definition of mental health involves how we think, feel and behave. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.
By being open and aware of the importance of mental health, organisations can make a big difference. When a message comes from the top that mental health issues are real and important it is much easier for employees to deal with their problems.
In 2017 a study was conducted across Germany, Canada, Australia, France, Belgium and Sweden. Known as the Deloitte study it looked at the impact of mental health awareness initiative in the workplace. It provided clear evidence that these initiatives were having a positive impact.
Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing
As we’ve seen, mental health problems are very common in the workplace. They can range from disorders such as anxiety to more serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Promoting good mental health can impact on physical health and improve many other aspects of people’s lives.
Given the known prevalence of mental health issues there is a very good chance that you have employee in your company who are dealing with a mental health issues. They may not realise themselves that they are carrying this burden and if they do, they perhaps don’t know how to deal with it. Therefore it is important to start at the beginning. By encouraging open discussions and a complete lack of stigma or shame around the subject, people are more likely to respond positively. Simply providing ways to help people identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues is a great starting point.
Even if an individual is aware that they are not coping well mentally they may not know how to deal with it. Be clear with employees about how you can support them and how they can access support outside of your organisation. Be clear that it is a legitimate illness and will be acknowledged and treated as such.
Promote stress fee working environments
Workplaces are often stressful environments. Stress can sometimes be useful to drive people and projects forward. But over a sustained period this can be very damaging. Consciously trying to make workplaces less stressful will help improve employees mental health. Encourage a good work/life balance. Encourage people to take breaks and relax for short periods throughout the day. Promote fun and wellness in your workplace. It may seem against traditional ideas of ‘hard work’ but it will ultimately get the best from your workforce as a happy, healthy team will take less time off for ill health and will be more productive over all.
It is vital that businesses and organisations have an awareness of mental health and its impacts. Engage in Learning provides online training courses which will help you and your organisation understand and deliver appropriate support and guidance to your employees.