As workers begin to come back to the office after a hugely stressful eighteen months, it’s more important than ever for employers to offer strong support for their staff. This World Mental Health Day, we spoke to a range of industry experts to get their advice on improving staff mental wellbeing.
“When we think of bullies, we often tend to remember the ones we knew at school, but unfortunately, adult bullies in the workplace are all too common,” explains Sherry Lowe, CMO at Exabeam. “Often, the workplace bully deliberately manipulates, belittles, intimidates, gaslights, and undermines others; typically their targets have less hierarchical status. Being on the receiving end can take a big toll on performance and have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. We spend most of our time at work, and if a bully is allowed to run free and an environment turns toxic, it can become a huge weight to carry.”
One of the biggest challenges in improving mental health is the stigma that can still surround these issues. Gillian Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile, points out that: “Although mental illness affects an estimated one in four adults, we still have a long way to go in terms of raising awareness and advocating against social stigma.
“So, this World Mental Health Day, what should we be doing to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of our friends and colleagues? With so much misinformation and guilt surrounding mental health, one of the most valuable things we can do is to open up the conversation and improve communication with each other.”
Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK, agrees. “At Leaseweb we are always looking for new methods to improve our employee’s lives and cultivate a positive workplace culture. Some of the ways that we ensure this is by implementing regular check-ins with our staff, introducing workshops specifically designed to challenge negative behaviours and mindsets, and ensuring regular conversations are taking place with anyone who indicates they are struggling. During challenging times, one of the most important things you can do is simply to let someone know that you are there for them no matter what. Sometimes, this can make all the difference. After all, as Robin Williams once said, “everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.””
“Employers should create a culture where employees are able to openly discuss their feelings without fear of repercussion,” adds Rob Shaw, Managing Director EMEA at Fluent Commerce. “Cultivating a culture of care requires open discussions with the policies to back this up – it’s imperative we keep the momentum going and make a positive change.
“At Fluent Commerce, open and transparent communication is actively encouraged. We operate weekly Q&A sessions which enable our team to raise any work-related concerns, as well as providing a free counselling service our employees can access anonymously.”
Dave Birchall, Chief People Officer at Node4, echoes this sentiment: “Here at Node4 we’re committed to looking after our employee’s mental wellbeing and destigmatising mental ill health. Among an extensive array of wellbeing-focused initiatives, we provide our employees with a 24/7/365 counselling service as well as access to qualified mental health first aiders.”
Whilst there is a lot that individuals can do to support their own mental health, Richard Guy, Country Sales Manager UK & Ireland at Ergotron, argues that employers can do a lot to encourage and support staff on that journey. “Employers should encourage their staff to consider the following when working at home: 1) keep moving 2) balance the types and portions of meals consumed and 3) ensure the set-up and functionality of your home workstation is practical. A key element of supporting mental wellbeing in the home is to ensure that employees utilise their desktops, laptops and furniture safely. This includes ensuring the monitor is at the correct height, having a comfortable chair and avoiding staying sedentary for long periods. While we tackle the challenges of the new world in which we find ourselves, organisations must take responsibility to provide workers with a safe and comfortable working environment to boost employee morale and mental health.”
Birchall adds, “This World Mental Health Day we challenge all organisations to examine what they are doing to support their employees’ mental wellbeing.” In addition to Node4’s mental health support policies, he explains they,“also have a wellbeing centre focused on mind, finance, fitness and nutrition, including discounted gym memberships, and a cycle to work scheme.”
“As business leaders, we have a responsibility to guard against burnout in our employees” notes Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru.“To perform effectively over time, people need to recharge. When I look at our organisation, a fast-growth tech company, this is particularly the case for those in our developer and engineering teams, who work extremely hard under – often – stressful conditions to keep critical national infrastructure moving forward. We need to be aware of burnout and so are encouraging everybody to block out time for breaks like lunch and to make sure that when they have a holiday, they hand over and don’t continue to respond to emails and messages.”
Danny Lopez, CEO at Glasswall Solutions highlights the importance of mindfulness in minimising employee stress. “Here at Glasswall, we actively remind our employees of the importance of pausing throughout their workday and practising mindfulness. Mindfulness encourages us to obtain a balanced emotional and mental state by taking time to pay attention to the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the first person to bring meditation to traditional medicine, describes mindfulness as “tuning your instrument before taking it out on the road.” You wouldn’t play an instrument to an audience before tuning it, so why do we insist oun forcing our stressed and over-capacitated minds to perform without taking care of them?”
Advances in technology mean that there are new and exciting ways for companies to tackle mental health. Mahon points out: “There can be huge benefits found in utilising new digital communication platforms, such as interactive apps which can accurately track employees’ mental and physical health over time and then offer approved guidance on potential actions to improve wellbeing. Through technology such as this, open communication, understanding, and patience, we can make significant improvements to how we perceive and address mental illness at home and at work.”
With talent shortages now a constant or growing struggle in many industries, hiring more people can no longer be the go-to response to team shortages and burnout,” concludes Taylor. “Consider, instead or as well, investing in a digital Workforce Optimisation (WFO) solution. WFO tools help organisations effectively manage and optimise employee performance by ensuring staff are fully trained, supported, monitored, motivated and organised. Intelligent, automatic and adjustable scheduling capabilities head off short-staffing and ensure workloads are realistic, helping avoid or at least postpone stress and burnout.”