This week, the International Stress Management Association is promoting a whole week of awareness-raising for global businesses and it is National Stress Awareness Day in the UK on Wednesday.
Last year, half of all employee absence was due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
The Government puts the cost of lost productivity and performance through mental ill health at £42bn a year for employers. It also found that 300,000 employees lose their jobs each year because of stress.
So what can businesses do to promote the wellbeing of our workforces and support those who are suffering?
A recent study found that 40% of us check our emails between 6-20 times per day and a third of us check our phones during the middle of the night. Organisational cultures that “assume” that staff are always available can be damaging to mental health and create pressure to continuously check email and worse still, respond to unsociable hours’ messages. Provisions for improving and promoting mental wellness at work need to be communicated top-down.
Promote mental wellbeing
Businesses that undertake a preventative approach to mental wellbeing see significantly higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction. Leading by example, managers should support sensible working hours, encourage employees to take lunch breaks and annual leave, and to recuperate after busy periods. Benefits should focus on the financial and emotional – as well as the mental and physical – wellbeing of employees.
Tackle the cause of work-related mental health problems
Regularly monitoring and assessing the mental health of employees might seem to be a difficult proposition. But anonymous company-wide employee surveys and line manager check-ins can help to gauge company and individual mood. Survey data can be used to establish wellbeing benefits and strategies, while one-to-one feedback allows managers to take positive action on an individual level.
Support staff who are experiencing mental health problems
According to surveys, one in six workers are dealing with a mental health problem, yet less than a quarter of managers have received any form of mental health training. Organisations should have clear policies on workplace adjustments for those suffering anxiety, stress or depression.
Any adjustments to the employee’s role should, of course, be discussed and agreed with them, but often the most effective changes are of attitude, expectation or communication on the line manager’s part.