Over half a million workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety last financial year in the US.
Or, to put it another way, 12.5 million working days were lost because of stress.
Stress and mental health issues are having a significant impact on people and, in turn, on the economy.
It’s no wonder then that last year Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK focused specifically on mental health in the workplace.
The impact is huge – both on the individual, but also for organizations, who may already be struggling with low productivity in the workplace (our research found employees admitted to being productive for less than 30 hours a week).
So, what can People Companies do to ensure they’re supporting employees’ mental wellbeing effectively? Here are six tips on how to support mental health within your organization.
85% of workers researchers spoke to thought there was still a stigma attached to stress and mental health issues in the workplace.
The first step in tackling mental health issues is to break down the culture of silence surrounding it, and creating an environment where people feel comfortable to talk.
Banking giant Barclays has launched ‘This is me’ to do just that, by supporting people to tell their own stories. The campaign includes over 200 employee stories that have been captured on film and in writing, manager training, and policy reviews.
Barclays has also made a commitment to normalize mental health issues by signing onto Time to Change, a pledge to support employees facing these challenges.
How to break down the stigma
One in four Americans and Brits suffer from mental health issues. Educate employees, and specifically managers, to spot the early warning signs of mental health problems in their colleagues and how to provide support.
Accounting firm, EY has set up the ‘r u ok?’ program to enhance EY’s culture of caring by equipping workers to approach colleagues who may be struggling, ask if they are OK and refer them to internal and external resources to help them.
This could prevent any individual from reaching crisis point that requires extended sickness absence.
How to educate employees
Addressing well-being at work increases productivity by as much as 12%.
Consumer goods company, Unilever has a wellbeing steering committee to address the physical, mental, emotional and purposeful well-being of employees.
Unilever believes that for its employees to be happy at work, they need to feel a sense of purpose. Therefore, 10,000 employees have so far been given a place on a Purpose workshop, to address what they want from their career and take time for ‘deep reflection’.
Smoothies company Innocent Drinks offers a yoga club, and fitness specialist Sweaty Betty gives employees the option to start later in the day so that they can concentrate on personal goals in the morning.
How to promote mental wellbeing
Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Amongst those newly diagnosed, only about a third get treatment. And it’s even lower among minorities and people who are older.
Financial experts, American Express have an award-winning mental health program.
The Healthy Minds program provides part-time counselors at each employee clinic and has hired a clinical psychologist to run the employee assistance program to continuously improve its services.
Tips for providing counseling services
A study found two minutes of silence to be more relaxing than listening to ‘relaxing’ music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.
Health insurer Medibank offered its staff a choice of more than 26 types of work settings, ranging from indoor quiet spaces and collaborative hubs to wifi-enabled balconies and places to stand and work.
Four months after moving into the new HQ, it surveyed employees – and found that 70% said they were healthier and 66% reported they were more productive, while its call center wing had seen a 5% fall in absenteeism.
Provide quiet, safe, de-cluttered zones that workers can go to, to break away and decompress. This will have a positive effect on everyone’s mental well-being and avoid stress escalating.
How to create quiet places at work
81% of employees we polled placed importance on flexible working.
At streaming service Netflix, employees don’t observe traditional 9-to-5 workdays or prescribed holiday and vacation schedules. They have the flexibility to choose what’s important to them, especially when their ‘mind and body need a break’.
Giving employees the flexibility to choose their schedules and offering generous parental leave can alleviate many of the causes of stress.
How to promote flexible working
Mental health issues could have a devastating effect on your people and in turn your business. Create a workplace environment where people can be themselves and can access the support they need.
As well as a legal duty to adjust for workers with long-term mental health illness, businesses have a moral duty to ensure that as many people as possible stay in work despite their mental health issues.
If you get it right, you could even prevent stress from escalating into much more serious mental health issues, helping your workers to be happier and healthier – something every true People Company wants.
What do your workforce really want? Download research from 3.500 workers on what really drives them in the workplace.