How to talk more openly about mental health at work

With workplaces and businesses in huge flux, there’s never been a better time for companies to encourage an open dialogue about mental health and office anxiety

A survey conducted by Benenden Health revealed that around seven in 10 employees have suffered from a condition related to mental health, with only 23.8% stating that their company regularly engages with them on issues surrounding mental health.

Workplace stress only serves to aggravate pre-existing conditions and anxieties, of which the most challenging part is recognition and being honest with colleagues and managers about the impact it is having. What can employers do to ensure their workplaces are a safe and supportive environment for all?

Slash the stigma

When Aaron Harvey, the founder of the Made of Millions Foundation, realised that his own organisation wasn’t doing enough to stimulate debate around mental health, he took matters into his own hands. In Beautiful Brains: A mental health manual for the modern workforce, he reveals that “81% of productivity loss is a result of presenteeism” (working while sick), “62% of people say anxiety affects their relationships with coworkers”, and that “51% of absenteeism can be attributed to a mental condition”. Despite these figures, the pressure to always ‘be online’ and productive endures, and employers must do more to recalibrate their expectations on employees’ time and workload.

establish the right culture

The key to a content workforce lies in establishing a positive culture that actively encourages employees to discuss their concerns. If you’re a business leader, try leading by example and sharing your work-related worries with your team. This will send a message that you are open and willing to listen to your employees’ problems, to understand and help them find solutions that will, in turn, make them feel acknowledged and secure at work.

Keep the dialogue open

A culture that rewards honesty and debate is likely to attract people who share the same values. Creating an environment where hierarchies are flat, diversity is celebrated and praise is forthcoming will create a strong sense of collectivism and employee wellbeing, which will also help your business retain great talent.

Create space

While some companies lavish employees with perks such as plush relaxation areas, free drinks and games rooms, businesses that consider employees’ more profound needs will really stand out. Cotter Cunningham, founder and chairman of discount finder RetailMeNot, says: “Too often when we talk about employee welfare, it’s that you do the things that are easy. So, it’s free chips, cookies, or free lunch as opposed to thinking about paid time off. Thinking about a realistic and good approach to mental health – that’s harder… not just giving people time off, but also thinking about the things that would de-stress their lives and make it easier to return.” Setting a precedent that employees need only respond to work emails during the working day, making mental health resources accessible in discreet ways, and inviting speakers specialising in mental health issues are sure-fire ways to create space for employees to feel nurtured at work.

Find out how Spaces can help you foster a positive workplace culture

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