World Mental Health Day: Making employee wellbeing a priority

Life has undoubtedly been difficult for many of us over the past few years, and this has definitely taken a toll on our mental health.

Whilst we must try to remain positive, unfortunately, things don’t seem to be getting any easier, as we head towards the troubles that this winter is set to hold.

As Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, articulates, “This time last year, we were talking about the toll that lockdowns were having on our individual and collective mental health. Thankfully, most of us are pretty much back to normal in that regard — seeing family, catching up with friends, and going on holiday. But inflation and rising energy costs are having an impact on people’s mental health.”

Dave Birchall, Chief People Officer at Node4, emphasises the negative effects these rising costs can have: “This can have a significant impact on mental health, with 40% of people reporting poorer mental health when their financial situation worsens. This is something that all employers need to be aware of over the coming months.”

World Mental Health Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on what is troubling us, both within and outside the workplace – as Scantlebury notes: “Marking Mental Health Day provides a good excuse to talk about any issues that we might face as employees, colleagues, family members or friends. It also offers a chance for us to discuss positive ways to build our mental resiliency to deal with some of the challenges that 2023 might present.”

But how can organisations support their employees’ mental health?

Employee well-being should be priority #1

Most companies have shifted employee well-being up the priority list, but there is still a long way to go. Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK, acknowledges this, stating that “ in recent years, the majority of workplaces have taken considerable steps towards looking out for their employees’ mental health. However, recent research indicates that in many cases there is still a shortfall in the type of support that employers provide – the Deloitte UK Mental Health Report 2022 found that one-third of people expected or would have liked more mental health support from their employer.”

In order to support the mental health of their employees, organisations should strive to put them first – prioritising their well-being above all else. Marco Fanizzi, SVP & GM at Commvault International, agrees with this mentality, declaring that “motivations have changed. Our continued message to our staff is to primarily think about yourself, your well-being and family. And then, help us take the business and drive sustainable growth.”

Having this as a priority not only benefits the employees but also their organisations, as Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam expresses: “By putting your employees first you can create an overall happier and more positive environment, while also improving retention and productivity.”

Supporting your employees and preventing burnout is essential

One important aspect of supporting employee mental health is protecting them from burnout. This can be a common problem in the often high-stress tech industry. Joanna Leach, Chief People Officer at HelpSystems, agrees that “burnout amongst workers is common in fast-paced industries that are constantly evolving. Our industry is no exception, with research suggesting as many as 51% of cybersecurity professionals have experienced extreme stress or burnout during the last 12 months. Employers need to provide the right environment and support to keep workers both physically and mentally healthy. Mental Health Day offers organisations an opportunity to reflect on whether they have the right initiatives in place to ensure their workers’ mental health is prioritised.”

She continues: “The industry isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, but together we can implement meaningful and impactful initiatives that will slowly but surely improve our collective well-being.”

Such support systems for employees are vital in industries like the cybersecurity sector, as Humphries explains, “It is important that we not only express our gratitude for our employees but look to implement practical solutions that get to the core of the most common problems. For example, with teams often time-poor and overstretched, security leaders should look to automation to help free up teams from mundane manual tasks so they can focus on doing what they enjoy most – solving cybersecurity challenges. This will not only fortify security measures, but most importantly it will relieve some of the stress and burnout experienced by employees.”

Employers need to engage in conversations to make a difference

In order to effectively support employees, leadership teams must also listen to them – and actively engage in open conversations about mental health. This approach has proven to be a success at Commvault, as Fanizzi outlines: “We are having conversations, listening and assessing to find out what an individual’s realigned values are. We are also encouraging more spontaneous calls and conversations to recapture a sense of what remote working has taken away.”

Though these conversations need to occur year-round in order to raise awareness and support for mental health issues, World Mental Health Day provides a good opportunity to open a dialogue within an organisation. Birchall agrees, expressing that, at Node4, “to destigmatise mental health, we include personal experiences of mental health in our internal monthly newsletter. We hope that this plays even just a small part in encouraging Node4 employees to prioritise their wellbeing, with World Mental Health Day providing the perfect opportunity to reinforce this message.”

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