While the pandemic has exacerbated workplace mental health, it has always been an issue; in 2017, the Stevenson/Farmer review, Thriving at Work report found that an estimated 300,000 people lost their jobs each year due to poor mental health.
Stress has been one of the main work-related factors affecting the mental health of adults in the UK over the past decade, but now the situation is much worse. Work-related mental ill health was costing UK businesses up to £45 billion in 2019, but these figures are now £56 billion a year according to Deloitte UK, an increase of 25%.
In 2021, McKinsey reported that at least 49% of respondents to a survey said they felt somewhat burnt out. This was likely made worse by pandemic-era working, where many worked long hours during the lockdown period as the boundaries between work and free time blurred.
Yet, many employees agree that working from home can achieve a better work/life balance. According to 2022 figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 78% of people who had worked from home in some capacity said it gave them a better work-life balance, and 47% said it also improved wellbeing, suggesting that hybrid working could be a good middle ground for both employees and their employers, who may want some office attendance.
While all employees are different, and will all prefer different working styles, there are mental health and wellbeing adjustments employers can make that will benefit the entire workforce, regardless of work style.
These ten tips, which come from Serenity in leadership, a company that builds cultural solutions to help businesses promote wellbeing and good mental health at work, will likely boost productivity and retention during the jobs market boom.
1. Don’t wait for the tipping point to act
Leaders need to show real empathy and deal with employee uncertainty and health problems with compassion. Be alert to signs of burnout, long-term anxiety, pressure, trauma and grief. Start conversations with employees and see how you can best meet their needs. Ensure that your company culture does not promote long-term working outside working hours, untaken holidays and poor work-life balance.
2. Inform and promote wellbeing at work
According to McKinsey, 47% of respondents want more focus on employee wellbeing. The pandemic has provided valuable insights into how we can recover, maintain and even optimise our mental health and wellbeing through better food choices, meditation, yoga, socialising, exercise, nature and lifelong learning. Taking these positive steps not only improves your mental health and wellbeing, but it also increases your brain performance and cognitive function and helps prepare your brain for the future.
3. Check for inequality
For example, if women want more flexibility and to work from home, companies need to ensure that men do not get promoted in the meantime because they are more physically visible at work.
4. Pay employees well to give them financial security
Due to the cost of living crisis, many workers are struggling with the rising cost of living and are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Leaders must do what they can to ensure a fair and equitable wage.
5. Do not suppress trauma in organisations
A positive mindset can help but it does not solve all problems. Trauma, anxiety and fear cannot go unaddressed. Empathetic management will put their employees first, rather than seeing caring for them as a distraction.
6. Make sure your managers take time off
Your managers are role models and set the culture in their area of responsibility. If they don’t take holidays, it puts all sorts of pressure on those who report to them and can create a very unhealthy atmosphere. Also, remember that a manager who lives alone may have a different view and approach to life than someone who has children. Managers need to be curious and open to empathy.
7. Provide psychological safety so that people can confide in each other
This gives people permission to talk about what is bothering them because they feel included, supported and safe and encouraged not to suppress themselves. When people feel safe, they are more likely to bring their full potential to work.
8. Build community relationships internally and externally
Encourage full participation, inclusion and respect, and build mutual understanding, especially across interpersonal and cultural divides. Define your values, maximise mutual learning, foster connections and organise comprehensive team training and events in which everyone can participate.
9. Be flexible
According to a McKinsey survey, 30% of respondents say they would probably change jobs if they were to return to a full-site job. Managers need to think about the needs of the individual as well as the demands of the business before losing valuable talent. The key is to give each a very clear direction that takes into account the needs of both.
10. Build resilience by empowering
The most resilient people find ways to heal emotionally and move on after stress or trauma. Empowering your team often helps them build resilience. Let people play to their strengths. Have role models, mentors, collaborations, partnerships and a plan that can be adapted continuously, because resilience is built on life experiences and the world is constantly changing.
In this article, you learned that:
- According to 2022 figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 78% of people who had worked from home in some capacity said it gave them a better work-life balance.
- According to a McKinsey survey, 30% of respondents say they would probably change jobs if they were to return to a full-site job.
- Ensure workplace equity for the genders; if women want more flexibility and to work from home, companies need to ensure that men do not get promoted in the meantime because they are more physically visible at work.