On average, we spend about a third of our lives working, so it’s unsurprising that our jobs can have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. But, worryingly, a fifth of workers claim that their jobs have caused them to feel anxious or stressed.
Performance and effectiveness at work are largely dependent on mental health and wellbeing. With as many as one in four of us experiencing problems with our mental health in the course of a year, organisations need to understand that this is an important issue for them and their staff. As staff play a pivotal role in the successful running of a business, many bosses are now looking at ways to relieve workplace pressures and ensure their employees are happy in their roles.
So, how can employers make sure their teams are fit for the job?
Create a healthy working environment and culture
Many companies are ill-equipped to deal with mental health issues among their staff. Recent research found that 75 per cent of line managers do not feel as though their company’s policies and procedures support employee mental health. And according to Mind, 30 per cent of employees do not feel they can talk openly with their line manager if they feel stressed.
There is undoubtedly a stigma that exists when it comes to discussing mental health.
For this reason, it’s important that businesses create an open and understanding culture so that staff feel comfortable talking about any issues they have and can get help addressing them. The main area to focus on is whether the company is fostering a positive working environment. Do people feel good about coming in to work? If not, then time needs to be spent on identifying why this might be and finding ways to address any issues that are affecting team morale. Holding regular meetings or enabling staff to air concerns or issues anonymously can be vital in revealing problems.
Increase flexibility for staff
There has been a lot of focus recently around the value of a healthy work-life balance, particularly with how busy our lives have become in the modern day. But as anyone with a demanding job will know, putting this into practice is easier said than done.
Having said this, bosses must remember that no matter how much people love their job, they have a life outside of it. If a person is constantly under pressure, this will inevitably have a detrimental effect on their mental health and could lead to more serious health problems in the future, such as depression.
Introducing flexible working policies not only helps to create a happier and more productive team, but it can also mean people are more willing to work a little later when needed. Employees often cite feeling reassured if this extra effort is noticed and appreciated, especially if they are free to make up for lost personal time when the immediate need for extra hours has passed.
Implement a dedicated employee wellbeing strategy
It’s true that a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way. Often, staff just want to feel as though they’re doing a good job, and this will spur them on to continue doing great work. Creating a dedicated employee engagement strategy can go a long way towards showing staff that their hard work is valued and appreciated.
Although a lot of time and thought would be needed to develop and implement such a strategy, the benefits would be seen throughout the whole business. At Fletchers, we have built up a strong strategy that includes various schemes, such as an Employee Assistance Programme, ACAS-accredited mental health awareness training, subsidised gym and yoga class membership, flexible working, beauty and therapeutic treatments to reward staff, and we give employees a pedometer to encourage them to be active during the day. We also run ‘personal resilience’ workshops to enable staff to identify when they might be feeling stressed, and how to develop coping strategies.
When employees feel as though their hard work is recognised, they will feel more content and engaged with their roles. This will lead to reduced stress levels, better mental health and wellbeing and improved rates of productivity.
It’s the biggest cliché in the HR book, but employees are a company’s greatest asset. Without them, businesses wouldn’t be able to function. Mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of who they are or where they work. If businesses do not take the time to develop employee wellbeing strategies, they risk losing their top talent to more forward-thinking competitors.
Tim Scott is director of people at Fletchers Solicitors.