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A better mental health future

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by Charlotte Gurney

Stress and burnout were already common in many workplaces pre-2020. However, since the start of the pandemic there have been many more mental health challenges and increasingly employees are feeling the pressure with the number of those reporting depression and anxiety increasing dramatically. Mental health ranks highly among the struggles being reported during the pandemic, with people finding it even harder than homeschooling or financial security. The way a workplace is designed can have a big impact on the mental health of those who function within it - so how can businesses use this to create a better mental health future?

Use any data that you have available
This can be a great starting point for creating a better mental health future. Metrics and data collected on mental health topics can reveal key information, such as which departments have the biggest issues and whether the current range of benefits and support is actually meeting the needs of staff.

Ask the right questions
There’s plenty of advice to ‘check in’ with employees regularly right now but what does that actually mean? Questions are the simplest way to get an idea of how people are coping, both during and lockdowns and after they lift. Emails, video conferencing, phone calls or face-to-face meetings don’t need to be long and involved to be effective. A few simple open questions can help people to feel heard, whether that is “how are you feeling” or “what do you feel are the biggest mental health challenges for you this week?”

Build your business culture around self care
Positive mental health requires people to prioritise their own self care and this is much easier when it’s part of the culture of the business. From ensuring people take regular breaks to encouraging open discussion of feelings and challenges there is a lot that any organisation can do to make this a priority. A diverse and inclusive business culture that embraces kindness and empathy is a firm foundation for positive mental health. Management can also lead by example, from having a clear work-life balance to talking openly about self care techniques, from journaling to better sleep.

Train your leaders to provide support and consider your resources
It’s very easy to miss the signs when someone is in distress where mental health is concerned. Training your managers to look out for employees who might be struggling and provide support can be an essential tool in creating an environment that is more conducive to better mental health. It will also often fall to the business to make help easily available to anyone who needs it. That could be through providing a range of self-help tools, access to resources and affordable treatment providers and initiatives that promote mental health and wellness across the business.

Businesses that prioritise mental health among the workforce do better overall. Employees who are secure, engaged and have the support and tools that they need to cope - and to thrive - are much more likely to make a positive contribution, be productive and work effectively as a team. That’s why a better mental health future is an investment worth making.