Sometimes life happens – and there’s nothing you can do about it. A seismic event takes you by surprise, bringing your world to a momentary halt. It could be an illness, an accident, a bereavement or something else entirely. But it changes the course of your life, maybe forever.
However, sometimes none of these things happen. Life just feels hard. Perhaps you’re suffering from work-related anxiety or a prolonged bout of depression that means you really don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
The old adage that says you should leave your problems at the door when you come to work is, in my opinion, completely redundant in a modern business environment. We know suppressing emotion is bad for us – yet for some reason, many employers still expect their employees to do just that for 7.5 hours a day, five days a week.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that in 2018, 15.4m working days were lost as a result of work-related stress, anxiety or depression. In fact, MHFA England reports that at least one in four people experience one or more diagnosable mental health issues every year. This doesn’t just impact the individual, but also the organisation, in absences and reduced presenteeism and productivity.
Any organisations today that are not taking the mental health and wellbeing of their employees seriously should expect to see an increase in staff turnover as well. A survey carried out by Glassdoor earlier this year revealed that 57% of UK adults say workplace culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.
So wouldn’t it be great if we could all just talk more openly about our mental health at work?
Of course, not everyone’s a ‘sharer’ like me, and that’s fine too. But this is just another reason why it’s important that businesses cultivate a culture that supports and enhances employee health and wellbeing.
At Whistle, we have a health and wellbeing policy that’s been communicated and shared with the team. But for us, it goes much further than this. We have invested in professionally training Mental Health First Aid Champions who are qualified to recognise the main signs and symptoms of mental ill health and to support appropriately. We run resilience training for the whole team, offer a year-round professional coaching and mentoring scheme and teach wellbeing as part of our high performance programme.
In addition to employing an open door policy, we encourage all of our line managers to hold regular 1-2-1s with their direct reports and identify training needs so people feel supported in their role. We have a buddy scheme for new recruits and hold regular social events. And, when a situation arises where work and life collide, we support our colleagues, offering a flexible approach to work and phased returns following periods of leave.
All of this means we attract and retain some of the very best talent in the industry – people we feel very lucky to have in our business.
While it would be unreasonable to expect organisations to wave a magic wand and solve the world’s problems, with increased understanding and discussion, we can begin to remove the stigma and change the conversation around mental health in the workplace.
Claire Gething is a Director at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media and internal communications. For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us here.