World Mental Health Day: It’s time for the tech industry to address the issue

Industry experts discuss how businesses, especially in the tech industry need to put mental health at the top of the agenda.

Addressing mental health is a crucial issue, as it affects individuals in their personal lives as well as at work – this is why the World Health Organisation has dedicated today as World Mental Health Day.

Organisations and individuals, especially in the tech industry, need to put mental wellbeing at the top of their agenda not just today, but every day.

A recent report from BIMA which questioned more than 3,000 members of the UK technology community, discovered that people working in the tech industry are five times more depressed than the general UK population. Further to this, they found that 52% had suffered from anxiety or depression at some point.

These statistics clearly show there’s a lot of work to be done to support mental health with technology professionals. With that in mind, a handful of experts in the tech industry have spoken to DiversityQ to discuss what strategies organisations and teams can put in place to make mental health a better place.

Say goodbye to the ‘always-on’ culture

Research conducted by the Chartered Management Institute in the UK, revealed that ‘always on’ managers are now working 29 extra days a year and are suffering from rising levels of stress. Jude Mott, Product Director at Six Degrees suggests taking a step back: “If you’re struggling to focus at work, consider managing your notifications to avoid distractions.”

Mott continues: “And when it comes to looking after your mental wellbeing, as well as being sensitive to the wellbeing of others, some of the best advice I can provide is to consider the impact your out-of-hours emails and messages have on others.

“Many of us habitually check our emails during the evening and weekends, but our time away from the office is essential to helping us relax and recharge. Do you really need to send that email tonight, or can it wait ‘til the morning?

“Set clear boundaries, and remember that ‘out of office’ really does mean out of office – those emails, meetings and tasks will still be there when you get back.”

Forward-thinking attitudes

“Organisations should take note of forward thinking attitudes when it comes to mental health,” comments Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal. “Companies should put in place their own policies and training to support suffering employees, as well as raise mental health awareness.

“Ultimately, mental health needs to be brought out of the shadows and into the spotlight of the boardroom, so that executives can ensure their employees have access to the resources and support they need.”

Bethany Allee, Head of Marketing at Cybera says, “As part of the leadership team of a rapidly growing tech firm, a big part of my responsibility is to look after – and look out for – my team.

“The key is to recognise and acknowledge our mental health needs. Get it out in the open. Create a culture which says it’s OK to take a break, it’s OK to say you’re not OK, and one that celebrates the mental wellbeing of your employees. Engaged employees are our number one asset – and without them, our company won’t succeed.”

Encourage workplace movement

Many businesses have started to offer their employees schemes to try and combat stress, such as provid healthy lunches or allowing flexible working hours. Christophe Clerc-Renaud, Senior Sales Director EMEA at Ergotron adds: “Whilst these benefits have many positive aspects, it is perhaps more important that businesses consider how they can make working hours more comfortable, productive, and flexible – all of which contribute to better physical and mental wellbeing.

“Initiatives that instigate movement in the workplace are an excellent way of helping staff-members feel happier and healthier. Many organisations are now acquiring products and solutions, such as ergonomic office furniture or work-from-home schemes, that can be tailored to individuals’ needs. All of these can make a huge difference to an employee’s productivity and their mental wellbeing.

“Other aspects like a change of scene in the workplace, or simply standing up to work rather than sitting down, are extremely valuable to workers. Standing more increases energy and productivity levels, lowers stress and improves employees’ moods. Making sure that employees are working as comfortably as possible by incorporating ergonomic principles will lead to better physical and mental wellbeing and, ultimately, improved productivity.”

Put the right tools in place – both technological and behavioural

With constant headlines about cyber threats and hacking, IT teams face constant pressure to respond immediately to any issues and resolve these quickly and efficiently.

“Unfortunately it all contributes to a stressful working environment, which is why this World Mental Health Day, business leaders should take the time to consider their employees’ mental wellbeing, and implement measures or tools that can help ease some of the strain,” says Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise.

“For example, investing in solutions designed for efficiency, such as data management, can help to streamline time management. Instead of having to allocate precious time to sift through ever-increasing pools of unstructured data, thanks to tools like these that can do that, IT teams can use that time more productively to benefit the business, and feel less anxious in the process.”

Jen Locklear, Chief Talent Officer at ConnectWise reveals what ConnectWise has implemented internally, “We’ve recently implemented which offers behavioural health support to our colleagues, 24/7. We have an engagement tool, TINYpulse, that has helped us to work with our people on issues that are impacting them – anonymously. 

What it comes down to for me is that I want to work for an employer who understands the significance of mental health. Not just for the purposes of the company’s productivity, but for the overall health of our people and the community. While it is not our obligation to offer these tools, I am grateful for companies like ours that offer these resources for people who are more than worth this investment.”

This World Mental Health Day, tech companies need to make it the norm for employees to discuss their mental health issues. Implementing these small changes to workplace culture and encouraging employees to move more and not stay sedimentary whist they work, can help them become more productive, happier and healthier. Companies should be encouraged to make the change.

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