The theme for this year’s mental health awareness week is anxiety, something which affects around 30% of adults at some point in their lives. With anxiety being one of the most common mental health challenges that society faces, mental health awareness week offers the opportunity to increase people’s awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on the things that can help and prevent it from becoming a problem. In light of this, it is important to explore how employers can help promote mental health in the workplace, as it not only enhances the well-being of their employees but also will contribute to a more productive and supportive work environment.
What should companies be doing to promote mental well-being in the workplace?
Training and Education: Companies should foster an open and inclusive workplace culture that acknowledges and discusses mental health through regular training sessions, roundtable discussions, and workshops. A good place to start would be to provide managers and leaders training on how to recognise signs of mental health issues, educating them on how to effectively address these concerns. For example, Martin Richardson, Employee Benefits Director at Halo Employee Benefits Ltd, ran a workshop with LMRE’s management team to educate them on creating a supportive environment for their teams, providing them with the tools to help them effectively use Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to identify, manage, and address mental health concerns that their teams might be facing.
Companies must regularly evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives and programs, using the findings to make necessary adjustments and improvements to their strategies. This could be done through employee surveys, feedback sessions, and tracking key metrics related to mental health and well-being.
Policies: Establishing supportive policies that prioritise mental health is essential, from flexible work arrangements to policies against stigma and discrimination. Flexibility in working hours and office attendance is increasingly becoming a core element of human resource offerings, with companies being judged on the benefits they provide for working parents, those that live out of the city and no longer want to commute, and people that work better in their own space.
There are several other policies tailored toward supporting the mental well-being of employees that can be implemented, such as providing gym facilities, pension schemes, or PTO packages as part of employee benefits. If an employee takes a leave of absence due to mental health reasons, a structured return-to-work program can help them reintegrate smoothly into the workplace. This program could involve a gradual increase in workload, tailored support, and communication with the employee to address any ongoing concerns.
Resources: Whilst conversations around mental health have become increasingly normalised, often employees still will remain silent, fearing that communicating their concerns will negatively impact their job. Companies should provide access to mental health resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counselling services, and support hotlines, as collaborating with mental health professionals and organizations can ensure employees have easy access to confidential and reliable support.
Additionally, establishing peer support networks or employee resource groups dedicated to mental health can create a sense of community and solidarity, where these groups are able to organise activities, provide a safe space for discussion, and offer support and guidance to their colleagues who may be facing mental health challenges.
What can employees do to maintain their mental well-being at work?
Work-life balance: Creating clear boundaries between work and personal life by setting specific working hours and avoiding excessive overtime will avoid the risk of burnout and provide the opportunity to fully recharge and switch off. These boundaries include taking regular breaks throughout the workday to maintain productivity and energy levels. It is important to step away from the desk, whether it is to get some fresh air or a change of scenery, as this will reduce mental fatigue and improve focus, as well as enhance creativity and problem-solving abilities. During these breaks and non-work hours, unplug from digital devices to allow for proper relaxation and detachment, reducing the risk of constantly being connected which can have negative effects on well-being.
Taking care of physical and mental health directly contributes to overall well-being. Implementing stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or engaging in physical activities like yoga or jogging during breaks will enhance productivity and energy levels, reducing work-related stress.
The UK Government is currently reviewing the flexible working request legislation. If the law is passed, this gives employees the right to request flexible working from day one of employment and will increase the number of times they can request flexible working patterns.
Communication: LMRE and Fifth Wall’s salary report published last year found that 86% of people surveyed would look for another job if they disliked their company culture. Building and maintaining positive relationships through effective communication, active listening and collaboration with colleagues is vital for a supportive work environment and will foster a sense of teamwork and belonging. Express appreciation for the efforts of colleagues and celebrate team accomplishments. Engage in activities that boost morale, such as team-building exercises, social events, or volunteering opportunities.
If experiencing work-related challenges or emotional distress, do not hesitate to seek support by discussing concerns with a trusted colleague, mentor, or supervisor, or use external resources provided like Employee Assistance Programs and counselling services. By communicating these concerns, employers will be able to provide the support and necessary resources to help combat the problem.
LMRE; ‘A Job Seeker’s Market: What do our Candidates look for in a Job Offer’ (26th October 2022)
LMRE; ‘The New Normal: Hybrid Working’ (28th April 2022)
LMRE & Fifth Wall; ‘What it’s Really Like to Work in PropTech’ (September 2022)
UK Parliament; ‘Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill 2022-23: Progress of the Bill’; (17th February 2023)
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