How can you keep your people happy, enthusiastic and productive?
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Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. But despite this initiative running for over 20 years we still have a long way to go.
There is now an awareness among businesses that employees who are encouraged to be proactive when it comes to their mental health will also be more productive.
In fact, the World Health Organisation found that companies that invest in treatment for anxiety and depression within the workplace reap the rewards – and potentially see a fourfold ROI in people’s increased ability to work.
Yet, according to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Last year it conducted a survey of over 4,500 people regarding stress, which cited that 92% of people sometimes feel that they are under too much pressure at work.
The data on workplace wellbeing is disconcerting with the latest Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development absence management study finding that stress-related absences are going up every year.
These statistics only reiterate what we already know: businesses need to do more to keep their organisations healthy and happy. It is one thing to be aware of people’s mental health, but another to take practical action.
Champion change from the top: talking the talk
To make mental health a main priority and break the cultural stigma that surrounds it, the C-Suite should be responsible for taking the first steps within a business. In the first instance, executives need to encourage greater transparency around the topic, ensuring that conversations about mental health are commonplace.
A good example of a company that has recognised the importance of its people’s mental health is Deloitte. Last year it announced that it is training a quarter of its senior leaders in Mental Health First Aid skills.
There should be no difference between discussions around anxiety, depression and suicide and those around workplace safety. HR departments and leadership teams play a crucial role in fostering a workplace atmosphere that welcomes openness.
This is why letting employees’ voices be heard – and listening to them closely – is crucial. Encouraging personal testimonials from people about their challenges with mental health is the best way to do so. Ultimately, we all have a lot to learn from the experiences and struggles of others.
Implementing ‘mental health days’
A recent report revealed that 217 million days of work are lost every year because of mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Put simply, mental health should be treated as equally as important to physical wellbeing.
Sick leave policies should therefore include days off for mental health issues. This will send a clear message to employees – that if they are suffering from poor mental health, they should seek professional help immediately.
Spotting the red flags and investing in pre-emptive care
Pre-emptive and preventive care is vital for protecting employees from mental and emotional turmoil. Paying close attention to the typical signs of reduced mental wellbeing is key.
These include decreased quality of work, changing appearance, reluctance to socialise, more sick days, lateness, among others. If caught early, therapeutic solutions like counselling could help a suffering member of staff address the state of their mental health.
Another option is to conduct monthly surveys and proactively ask workers to self-report. This is only effective if the data gleaned is analysed and acted upon effectively. If executed well, businesses can use the results to take a data-driven approach to people-related decisions.
The end-goal is to tap into the emotional state of an organisation by accurately gauging employee wellbeing.
Using tech to help lower stress
Businesses can now make these data-driven decisions as a result of technological advancements. Workplace tech has progressed to the point that it can be used to help employees going through periods of stress.
HR systems are now capable of pinpointing user behaviour and patterns within companies using data. Often, the C-Suite worries about how their people are feeling but do have the time or resource to understand the true sentiment of their workforce.
As big and small companies scale, only valuable data can provide this level of insight.
A major part of looking out for employees’ mental health is developing practical ways to detect, understand and manage their stress. By taking proactive steps to create a mentally healthy organisation, a business can help improve its people’s quality of life. And at the end of the day, a happy workplace is a significantly more successful one.