17.10.20 News & CultureOrganisations can now hear their people loud and clear – how mental health is a priority for business

Organisations can now hear their people loud and clear - how mental health is a priority for business

Remember the days when companies that had a well stocked, funky looking pantry and fabulous break out areas were the cool cats in town? Well, not anymore. Organisations are starting to recognise their employees need more than just Oreos and a Nespresso machine (with a milk frother function) as they start to direct their attention to the mind.

The Covid-19 catalyst
The onset of Covid-19 certainly highlighted the importance of mental health as people were suddenly estranged from their workplace, home schooling children, spending more time in doors with family than ever before and overwhelmed with the rise of an unexpected global, deadly pandemic (and the terrifying media/stories that came with it). According to Human Resource Director Magazine, ‘more than seven in 10 professionals today are suffering from burnout in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.’ While mental health certainly isn’t a new thing, the need to support mental health under these conditions can no longer be ignored.

Maintaining mental health at work
Just like your physical fitness, when your mind is well, you perform better, you deal with situations better and you build better relationships. The result? A strong workforce, better results and a place people want to work. Mental health can be quite the doozy to tackle because stress/life/situations affect different people in different ways which is why it is so important for organisations to continually listen to and observe their employees. Ask what they need, ask how they are, observe behaviours and take action. Managers can help the cause by making sure that their teams are regularly scheduling time away from their desk to reset, continually check in with them (and their individual needs) and openly talk about mental health to start to make it more acceptable and less taboo. 

Baby steps to better mental health at work
According to a global study of over 2,700 employees across more than 10 industries undertaken by Qualtrics and SAP during March and April 2020, since the outbreak of the pandemic, 75% of people say they feel more socially isolated, 67% of people report higher stress, 57% are feeling greater anxiety, and 53% say they feel more emotionally exhausted. While a lot of organisations are still observing from afar, many have rolled up their sleeves and started to take affirmative action. They recognise the need to check in on their staff’s mental health and provide tools and the infrastructure to invest in it because, in the long term, it will be better for business. 

In a recent article, Harvard Business Review shares steps companies can take to address the mental health issues their teams may be facing. These include:

  1. Open the door: A significant number of managers have never broached the subject of mental health and if their employees are ok but studies show that this is something many would appreciate. 
  2. Demonstrate Supportive Listening: Allow your team time and space to communicate and when you do, be sure to listen.
  3. Be consistent: This isn’t a one time conversation. Studies show that more that ‘more than 90% of people said they wanted at least weekly communication from their company; 29% said they prefer daily communication’ and one on one calls seem to be the most welcomed method of execution. 
  4. Keep a Constant Pulse: Make sure that while managers are taking care of their teams, someone is also taking care of the managers. Be sure to check the pulse of the company regularly through methods such as surveys and make sure to take action on insights where needed. Find ways to also replace the pantry chats or water cooler conversations which tactics such as Friday night zoom drinks. We are human beings after all and human beings thrive on community.  
  5. Communicate Available Resources: What resources have you made available to your organisation and how are you telling them about it? Lastly, make sure you are very clear about the mental health resources available to everyone at your company. According to Harvard Business Review, ‘almost half of workers said their company has not proactively shared what mental health resources are available to them’ and ‘people who said their company has proactively shared how to access mental health resources are 60% more likely to say that their company cares about their wellbeing’. Letting your staff know there are resources available to them (even if they don’t use them) is important.

With global recognition over the last year of the decrease in mental health across all levels of organisations, companies need to take action. They need to implement strategies to tackle mental health and let their staff know they are there. Organisations need to appreciate that everyone’s situation and reaction to their environment is different. Solutions need to cater for more than one archetype and there is no time to waste to implement them – the workforce is waiting.

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

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