Creating a work culture and environment that actively promotes mental health awareness and protection has never been more important. Jo Davey, Global Director of People Performance at Xaxis, looks at how employers can support staff
Our mental health and wellbeing is in a precarious position. Tightening restrictions depending on location and a continuous stream of negative news are inevitably causing stress and anxiety. During the earlier lockdown, 60% of adults felt their mental health deteriorated and this trend is likely to continue as we enter the winter months.
On a more positive note, this year taught us a lot about building personal resilience. People are discovering coping mechanisms and creating individual toolkits to navigate these difficult times. We’re getting outside for daily walks, taking up new hobbies, making time for video chats, prioritising healthy eating, finding ways to relax our bodies and minds, setting limits on media exposure, and establishing new daily routines.
But when considering the workplace, for the majority of employees, putting these tools into actions is only possible with the support of their employers. Without a work culture and environment that actively promotes mental health awareness and protection, employees can easily fall into an unproductive cycle of loneliness, overwork, fatigue and depression.
Here are some ways employers can support employees as part of an ongoing commitment to mental health protection.
Lead by example
A culture that promotes employee wellbeing begins with business leaders. They must be open to discussing mental health issues, encouraging employees to vocalise and prioritise their individual needs. Simply hearing a Managing Director or CEO say it’s ok not to be ok can provide employees with a psychological safety net and the confidence to make suggestions or discuss their own experiences.
In response to the issue of video call fatigue, for instance, a Xaxis employee suggested having one day each month with no meetings. The company implemented the idea in June and now holds a meeting-free Thrive day on the last Thursday of each month. This regular event gives employees a day to decompress, with an emphasis on self-learning, and Xaxis plans to retain the concept indefinitely.
Provide help and resources
Another way businesses can support their employees is offering easy access to resources that promote mental health. At Xaxis we provide a learning portal with a wide range of training courses, and the particular popularity of one entitled ‘Building better mental health,’ illustrates employees are reaching out for help.
Of course businesses also need to give employees the opportunity to use these resources. During our Thrive days the number of mental health related self-learning courses undertaken is increasing month-on-month, accounting for 22% of all courses completed during August.
Factor in individual needs
A one-size-fits-all approach to mental health support will never be effective as each employee has different needs and circumstances. Employers may need to offer specific support for neurodiverse talent, for example, or consider individual arrangements for employees going through life stages such as the menopause.
Businesses must be flexible and allow employees to build their schedule around individual needs, assigning the same priority to activities that support mental health as they would to work-related meetings or tasks. There must be a shift in focus away from the hours employees spend at their desks towards the hours they spend being productive, as this is far from the same thing.
The current climate may be compelling employers to consider employee mental health in the short term, but they need to make an on-going commitment to holistic support. Wellbeing at work isn’t an initiative, it’s creating an environment where people thrive, and it starts with company culture.
Posted on: Thursday 22 October 2020