Your workplace is damaging your employees' mental health

Here's what you can do about it.

by Jason Downes
Last Updated: 17 May 2018

Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that a staggering 28% of millennials think working through stress is expected of them in their current workplace. Research from Powwownow also found that two thirds (62%) of British office workers think their workplace is negatively impacting their mental health.

These stats reveal a worrying disconnect between employees and employers when it comes to  attitudes towards stress and anxiety in the workplace and highlight the need for leaders to realign their focus on creating transparent, supportive workplaces, and properly communicate the support available to employees.

Clearly more needs to be done, so how can organisations create open dialogues and give people the confidence to share their experience with someone and seek support?

Create an open culture

Company culture can significantly impact employees’ experiences in the workplace, so the creation of an ethos of transparency and clear lines of communications can produce a far more positive working environment. Without clear, open communication channels, it can be incredibly difficult for employees who are struggling with mental health problems to open up and have discussions about the support they need, or even simply talk to someone about their experiences.

Often one of the most successful ways to create these clear lines of communication is to have a specific mental health representative in the HR team.  

Anonymous staff surveys are another useful way to review workplace culture and assess employee mental health, leaders can then use these findings to inform workplace policies and action the causes of stress or anxiety in the workplace.

Inclusive leadership

A culture is often created from the top, so having a flat leadership is important. Giving employees the opportunity to find common ground with their leadership team through company-wide events can give them the confidence to discuss more personal matters and create a culture of trust.

Any health issue, whether it be physical, mental, or wellbeing related, is an incredibly private and individual matter so it is vital that employers, managers and employees understand the specific sensitivities around mental health and ensure that any issues that arise are dealt with the same level of thoughtfulness and privacy regardless of who an employee decides to open up to.

Mental health charity MIND runs a specific course for managers and leaders.

Clearly communicate support channels

It is crucial that employers have the correct support system in place so that employees understand who they can speak to if they need support.

Being clear on policies such as flexible working, shared parental leave or access to work can be a step in the right direction. However, it is important that employees who do need specialist support, or need to discuss sensitive issues, know exactly who they could speak to.

Mental health is by no means a collective conversation. However, by having a transparent culture where employees are confident that their vulnerabilities won’t be perceived as weaknesses, and understand that any issues they have will be dealt with sensitively and privately, employers can start to create more positive work environments that promote good mental health.  

Jason Downes is managing director of Powwownow and founder of the Smarter Working Initiative.

Image credits: Wiro.Klyngz/Shutterstock

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