In the wake of Mental Health Awareness Week, it is evident that simply dedicating a few days to discussing mental health is not enough. The time has come for companies to go beyond superficial gestures and truly prioritize the well-being of their employees. In this blog post, written by guest writer Natalie Walpole, a Nottingham resident, we delve into the alarming statistics surrounding mental health in the workplace and shed light on the urgent need for meaningful support. Join us as we explore practical actions that businesses can take to create a positive and supportive workplace environment that values the mental health of their employees throughout the year. Together, let us work towards a culture that recognises the importance of mental well-being and ensures that no employee is left to navigate their struggles alone.

Why mental health awareness in the workplace should be a year-round focus ?

Now that Mental Health Awareness Week has come to an end, for many companies, it’s quite literally business as usual. But it really shouldn’t be.

While the week is a great time for people to share their personal experiences and advocate for it to be talked about more, it shouldn’t be constrained to a few social media posts over the 7 days with a few relevant hashtags at the end. No sooner are businesses, who imply that ‘it’s okay not to be okay, will then sweep mental health awareness under the rug and turn a blind eye to giving their employees the support they deserve.Whether you’re working hybrid or solely in the office, a positive workplace environment is vital to how you perform in your job. However, as statistics show, businesses are not doing enough to support their employees.In the Workplace Health Report created by Champion Health, they found that:

  • 60% of employees are experiencing symptoms of anxiety
  • 56% of employees are experiencing symptoms of depression
  • 9% of employees are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • 73% of people say that workload is a cause of their stress

With those alarming figures, it’s infuriating to see job descriptions listing so-called benefits that include free coffee and a games room. Where are the real benefits, such as access to counselling and regular wellbeing initiatives?

While my main focus here is on mental wellbeing, it’s worth stating that financial wellbeing can also be linked to this. More and more people in the UK are being affected by the cost of living crisis, which can impact how they do their job. If employees are incapable of reaching out to their employer about their mental health, this will almost certainly be the case when it comes to discussing financial wellbeing. Going back to Champion Health’s report, 98% of employees are motivated to improve their wellbeing. Given this is a significant amount of people, it should be an indicator for businesses to have something in place that can be accessed for the whole year.

In response to these findings, contributor and Health and Wellbeing Strategist Nick Davison said:

“You want to encourage individuals to own their health and wellbeing. To do that, you’ll need data, you’ll need insight and you’ll need information. You also need to recognise that, within your colleague population, you have similar traits which you can use to galvanise people into communities. Utilising these communities means your people can engage and be part of the solution, rather than waiting to be invited into taking part.”

Although the pandemic led to companies diverting their attention to offering mental health support, there’s still many others who will push this to one side and expect their employees to ‘toughen up’. So, if you’re wondering how to make this support more accessible within your company, consider taking these 3 actions from Head of Product at Champion Health, Laura Dallas:

  1. Create space and opportunity

Employees need space and opportunity to look after their mental health. This starts with an open culture that gives employees time to prioritise their wellbeing.

  1. Make your support visible

If you’ve got it – shout about it. Don’t bury your services in the depths of the intranet. Where possible, ensure these services are just one click away.

  1. Consider the types of support available

Not everyone can (or will want to) access support in the same way. Consider introducing alternative options like text support, alongside more traditional phone lines or in-person therapy.

In truth, we’ve come a long way in being more open about mental health in the workplace. You only have to go back a few decades to see that it was a huge stigma and not at all tolerated within 4 walls. But we can always do better. Because we work to live, not live to work.

Submitted to The Wolfpack Project by Natalie Walpole.

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