With World Mental Health Day rapidly approaching, it is an apt time to address mental health in the workplace. Due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses have moved to a hybrid working model, encouraging workers to split their time between the office and home. This change has brought about unprecedented challenges related to maintaining good mental health in the workplace – meaning CEOs and CHROs must develop and implement robust new strategies to ensure employees feel supported whilst at work.
Working from home provides notable benefits to workers; it has been reported to encourage a better work-life balance, reduce commute time, and subsequently improve employee retention.
However, it does conversely bring new challenges to the workplace such as domestic stress, isolation, and loneliness. Employees with additional caring responsibilities such as children or extended family members may feel heightened levels of stress whilst working from home, thus it is essential to ensure that workers are able to voice their worries without fear of stigmatisation or repercussions.
Similarly, employees who rely upon workplace interactions to provide increased social fulfilment may struggle with feelings of loneliness through working from home. CEOs, CHROs and managers should encourage and schedule lunches, meetings and contact time in order to encourage socialisation and friendship. With the continued mental stressors associated with COVID-19, contact and a strong support network is more crucial than ever. Unbeknownst to others, workplace events may provide a social lifeline to certain employees.
Furthermore, another issue to consider is ensuring adequate home infrastructure and technical support; with employees having reported a sense of helplessness when faced with inadequate equipment and technical issues whilst working from home. When shifting to a hybrid work model, it is essential to provide workers with the same level of practical support that would be received whilst in the office.
Remembering that employees may feel unable to request additional support when faced with a lack of equipment or technical understanding, it therefore becomes vital that CEOs and CHROs pre-empt such issues and implement adapted workplace practices to reduce the stressors associated with poor infrastructure.
Notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19, employee wellbeing and good workplace mental health must be a priority for companies and CEOs.
The stigma attached to poor mental health has long been an issue associated with wellbeing in the workplace. According to a survey by The Priory, ‘80% of self-employed respondents would worry about an employer’s response if they disclosed a mental health condition’. A culture of shame surrounding mental health has gradually pervaded the workplace, with many employees not disclosing health concerns for fear of negative repercussions.
For many, visible encouragement and open conversation on the topics of wellbeing and mental health allow employees to reduce the barriers to access the support they need to fulfil their workplace potential.
Summary – ways to improve mental health in the workplace:
- Cut the stigma around mental health by allowing employees to speak freely about wellbeing issues
- Establish direct communication between CEOs, CHROs and employees to build trust and mutual understanding
- Organise regular team meetings, lunches and calls to combat loneliness and build workplace relationships
- Regularly check in with employees to gauge issues and form pre-emptive solutions
- Encourage employees to present new ways of working that boost productivity and improve wellbeing
- Provide adequate infrastructure and practical support to alleviate technical issues and associated stress