‘Let’s catch up’ – why we have to make time for mental health conversations.

Stress is on the rise, and employers have a genuine responsibility to look after their team. A hybrid approach gives people the freedom to work in a way that suits them.

In some ways it feels like we have never been more aware of our mental health. Conversations about stress, anxiety and self-care occur regularly on social media and probably around many kitchen tables too.

Yet burnout and other work-related mental illnesses are still on the rise. According to Corporate Wellness magazine, 31% of workers experienced a decline in their mental health in the past year – up from 24% at the end of 2020. The same survey found that 84% of workers experienced at least one mental health challenge during that same time period, from issues such as stress and burnout to diagnosable conditions including depression and anxiety.

There is plenty that employers can, and should, be doing to help their staff and make a meaningful difference. And it’s not complicated, or expensive. In fact, setting out a structured, open and respectful conversation about health can have manifold positive effects, right down to the bottom line.

Listening

Perhaps the simplest of all the steps is to just listen to your employees. To have regular catch ups, informal updates on projects, and asking that direct question – ‘how are you?’ Offering a clear path to conversations about feelings and workload (which is often the root cause of stress) helps to build a culture of care and it puts the subject of mental health in plain sight, just where it needs to be. The Harvard Business Review suggests asking these three questions: “What would be most helpful to you right now?” “What can I take off your plate?” and “How can I support you without overstepping?”

This type of conversation is just as important to have with workers who spend a lot of time away from the company HQ. Psychotherapist Owen O’Kane, a former NHS clinical lead, suggests you adopt a down-to-earth conversational approach. A starting point could be, “Shall we grab a coffee over Zoom? It would be great to catch up with you.” If the situation would benefit from a face-to-face conversation, managers can use days at the company HQ or local flexspace to catch up with stressed workers, so not all interactions have to happen through a screen.

Action

Of course, listening then has to be followed with some actions. If someone tells you that they are being buried under a growing pile of work, then you need to be willing to remove some of that burden. If they are finding the juggle of work and family life too intense, then you need to find a way to make it manageable. It’s about bringing basic human kindness into a world of deadlines, targets and finance – it’s not easy, but it is achievable.

Hybrid power

Increased flexibility brought about by hybrid working can help to ease stress by directly addressing so many of its primary causes. iHire’s 2022 Talent Retention Report, which surveyed 2,665 workers, found the third most common reason people left jobs in the past 12 months was a poor work-life balance. There has also been an anecdotal rise in employee disengagement, or ‘quiet quitting’, a TikTok-era take on work to rule, or not going above and beyond.

By enabling your employees to use flexspaces and coworking facilities that may be closer to their home, or that are designed in a way that is more in tune with their working style (more quiet spaces for example, or informal meetings areas), then you are also giving them the freedom to set up a working week that fits more fluidly into their personal lives. That leads to other bonuses too – a study from IWG found that 95% of HR leaders believe hybrid work is an effective recruitment tool, with 60% saying it increases employee retention and 80% agreeing it boosts employee satisfaction.

At Spaces, we also understand the mental benefits of good physical health. In the UK we teamed up with Bupa and gym provider Hussle to offer gym and healthcare packages to customers. This not only enables workers to get fit and exercise during lunch breaks or before work (the links between physical exercise and mental health are well documented), but it also addresses many people’s work-life balance issues.

Yes you can work and keep fit, and by working closer to home from a space that suits you, you can enjoy an evening with family and friends too, and even drop your kids off at school in the morning.

While all of this leads to a better work culture, where staff are happier and you, as an employer, feel that warm glow of doing the right thing, there are clear commercial benefits too. Having engaged staff, who stay in a role for the long term and enjoy their work leads to a better output. It’s win, win.

Browse our modern, flexible workspaces to find out how they could help you and your team.

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