Mental Health: the role of organisations to improve mental wellbeing at work

Oh no, another article about Mental health! Hear me out – this is important.

This topic has been at the forefront of discussion these last few years. What we have been seeing is that people have found freedom in expressing that they are not coping with the pressures of life and are experiencing varying levels of anxiety. Is this real or are they looking for excuses or sympathy? Well… there is an estimate of 264 million people who suffer from depression globally.

So why is this your problem? Shouldn’t your employees be making time to take care of their own anxiety and depression? The problem is that when there is a loss in productivity at work due to depression and anxiety, there is not only an impact on your employees in their private life but these disorders also cost the global economy -about US$ 1 trillion each year.

So, this problem belongs to you as well!

If you make the investment in your employees’ mental health, you can see direct results. In a recent WHO-led stud, researchers estimated that there is a return of US$4 for every US$1 spent in investing in the treatment and support of mental health disorders experienced in teams.

But how do you even notice if someone is experiencing mental health issues at work? Here are a few signs that a team member might be struggling at work due to mental health:

  • They are behaving out of character – making mistakes that are uncharacteristic; they are more tired than usual; they are unmotivated; they lose their cool and have a shorter temper; lose track of time and are unable to complete tasks on time
  • This person is isolating themselves from everyone else
  • They may be alternating between the extremes of procrastinating or becoming chaotic and unable to control their emotions
  • They may also not be taking care of their outer appearance when they usually take pride in how they look

What can you do as a leader to provide the support that your employees need to ensure that their mental health is taken care of?

Create an environment where talking about feelings is encouraged:

Set up accountability groups which are groups of 3 – 8 people in the business that do not work in the same department or team. Ensure that they meet at least once a month to talk on issues that they are having, and experience share on what they have done with similar issues.

Encourage an active lifestyle:

An active lifestyle does not just consist of exercise. It also means being active in hobbies and passions. Use your company’s social channels to create different social clubs so employees who have similar interests can connect and make plans to meet. This could be a running group or a hiking group, for example.

 Make regular breaks a must:

The culture of only taking a mandatory tea break or that breaks are only allowed for people to go smoke is totally outdated and I hope when you read this you are thinking ‘does anyone still do this?’.

Creativity happens when people are moving or speaking to others. Encourage your employees to get up, walk around, maybe make a coffee and get some fresh air. These regular breaks give employees breathing room and the break can help get perspective of the situation that they are in.

Encourage healthy eating:

If your company supplies snacks ensure that there are plenty healthy, fresh snacks like fruit and nuts. If you have something like a vending machine get one that stocks healthy drinks and snacks. A creative way to encourage healthy eating is providing information on what a healthy diet looks like or possibly have healthy meal recipes available in the designated eating area.

Try putting a rule in place that no one is allowed to eat meals at their desk. This helps your employees take a real break and possibly the chance to connect with someone else. Avoid forcing them to eat somewhere specifically. Rather, allow them the freedom to go where they feel comfortable to eat. The point of this exercise is to be away from your desk.

Show that you value your employees:

Create a culture of value where you express your appreciation of everyone and as individuals. Think of ideas with your team leaders that they can implement in their teams to keep up the appreciation. Encourage them to let you know the small wins of their team members so that if you bump into that person, you can take a moment to congratulate them of that accomplishment. These small gestures go a long way in making people feel worthy at work – and as human beings generally.

Invest in your employees through workshops:

Personal development workshops which provide tools on how to communicate; handle stress; and create a life where work and personal time is integrated, to help manage stress. These programmes also provide a platform for everyone to feel comfortable and share what has been on their mind, and then work through issues that you were not even aware were there.

Above all else, practice your active listening. If you are not actually listening to your employees you may be missing out on vital information on how everyone is truly feeling. Read our blog post on active listening to get some great pointers on how to be the best listener you can be.

Everyone feels stressed or anxious from time to time at work. Sometimes these feelings can become all-consuming, and it is your job as a leader to ensure everyone feels comfortable speaking up about it so you can foster a culture of care. After all, the most important asset is your people, so look after them.