By Jack Pijl
We all have mental health, just as we have physical health. Both change throughout our lives, and like our bodies, our minds can become unwell. There is a strong business case for leaders and organisations to making it their main priority to promote good physical and psychological health for all staff. Staff well-being leads to greater staff productivity, improved morale and retention, reduced sickness, absence and presenteeism. A survey by Mind UK showed that out of 44.000 employees 48% had experienced poor mental health but only 50% of those had told their employer. Do you really know what is going on for the people you lead?
The nature of our workforce and workplace is changing and becomes more digitalised and virtual. Organisations operate in an era of smartphones, hot-desking, flexible schedules, instant messaging and the influence of social media. Due to these changes, people’s lives are constantly ‘connected’ with the unintended consequence of never pausing and disconnecting from all the impulses life throws at us. When not managed thoughtfully, this constant engagement can put a strain on people’s state of mind.
Whereas physical strains are spotted easily and regulated through Health & Safety policies, psychological strains are more difficult to recognise and engage with. It is now time to draw our attention to the less visible side. Building psychological safety and trust are key components to creating a resilient and healthy organisation. This resilience is required to pro-actively prevent poor mental health instead of resolving issues that arise due to a lack of resilience and poor mental health. It is important to help organisations build a culture of support and openness so that people feel empowered and reassured when seeking and providing help without any stigma. This can be done through systemic and integrated interventions that include coaching, learning modules and helping people manage change. These interventions provide the support organisations and their people need to actively diminish existing challenges around mental health and provide them with the skills, knowledge and experience to recognise and prevent future challenges around mental health.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
The World Health Organisation describes mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’.
Mental Health is more and more at the forefront of society’s-mind with the Royal Family supporting charities campaigning for mental health, the FCA educating organisations on ‘Transforming Culture in Financial Services’ and the Equality Act that incorporated ‘Mental Impairments’ as part of the law in 2010 (just to name a few).
A lot of mental health problems start with the phenomenon known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’ (Langford, Joe; Clance, Pauline Rose;, fall 1993). This is a feeling where people believe they’ve risen to a position they don’t deserve. They fear that their colleagues, managers and leaders will discover that they don’t deserve the position they are in, so they do their best to hide their bad days and the limitations of their knowledge. The Imposter Syndrome together with any personal problems somebody is struggling with and the stigma around mental health can negatively affect the mental health of people. This can lead to all sorts of negative impacts on individuals such as severe anxiety and depression leading to poor performance in their roles.
For organisations it is important to pay attention to these factors, build awareness and an acceptance around mental health issues. This will help them strengthen their workforce and give their leaders the confidence to step in and provide support if they suspect somebody is not coping.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Create a culture of trust, collective responsibility and care to bring understanding about mental health. Normalise the subject for people to be able to ‘engage with’ rather than ‘shy away from’ to diminish poor mental health in the workplace. Resolving existing challenges around mental health in organisations is important. And preventing future mental health issues and keeping staff healthy and safe is as important. Help organisations and leaders to truly know what is going on with their people and help them resolve any challenges by;
- Creating an environment of learning and curiosity to promote awareness of mental health issues across the workforce
- Building resilience within and across teams which helps them have the (often difficult) conversations around mental health
- Developing line mangers’ people management skills to be able to spot early signs of mental health issues
- Training line managers in engaging with and supporting mental health in the workplace to create an environment for employees to ask for help
- Creating opportunities for groups and teams to be able to talk freely and openly in a safe and confidential space
- Creating internal support systems and ingrain awareness into the culture of the organisation
- Providing practical steps that employers can take to create a mentally healthy workplace and help prevent poor psychological well-being in the first place
Jack Pijl is a Psychotherapist and a Director at Blacklight Advisory Ltd, he provides mental health training and advise to clients in organisations.