Each year, World Mental Health Day aims to promote mental health awareness, with 2019’s particular focus being suicide prevention. According to ONS statistics, there is a strong correlation between people’s jobs and their risk of suicide, with the probability being lowest for higher paid individuals and greatest for lower paid workers. At the highest risk, males working in the lowest skilled occupations are 44% more likely to commit suicide than the male national average.
JAMIE MACKENZIE, DIRECTOR AT SODEXO ENGAGE, COMMENTS:
“The fact that we need a World Mental Health Day is a sign that much more work needs to be done in curtailing the problem. Suicide statistics are getting worse year on year and employers must recognise their part to play. Stress caused from work is a real thing that contributes to loss of lives.
Not only is a culture where mental wellbeing is ignored detrimental to employees, it’s costly for businesses. Taking some small steps to make the office a friendlier, more open space can go a long way both in helping workers feel supported and saving money. Work should provide people with a sense of purpose, identity and an opportunity to connect with others- let’s strive to keep it that way.”
Companies around the globe are taking note and recognising that there is a greater emphasis now to take responsibility and do their bit when it comes to looking after the mental health and wellbeing of their team. Employee engagement specialists Sodexo Engage have identified four core strategies business leaders can introduce to improve their staff’s mental wellbeing, and consequently do their bit to curb rising suicide figures and ensure their employees feel well supported.
Tackle financial worries
In a recent study, concerns around finances were cited as the second greatest cause of workplace mental illness. Budgeting, managing debts and getting a hold on finances in general is a skill many have simply never learnt. Helping staff better understand their finances by offering training sessions, through e-learning on apps or hiring a professional to come in and lead some fun interactive workshops, will foster confidence amongst employees to stay in control of their money.
Support from senior leaders is a big stumbling block to helping employees get the help they need. Sometimes, no matter what the intention may be, words can be very damaging. Even casual usage of terms like “manic” and “mad” about others in informal conversation can contribute to the stigma. Leaders have a responsibility to ensure vocabulary in the workplace is consistently professional and respectful.
Create an open dialogue
Speaking regularly with employees in-person on a one-on-one basis is, first and foremost, the best way to open up lines of communication. Managers can ask simple and open questions during catch ups to encourage staff to talk through any concerns. An open-door policy where the manager’s door is open to every employee is also a good way to develop trust and make sure important feedback reaches the top.
Promote healthcare benefits that are available
It’s not always obvious which healthcare benefits are available to employees, so employers should consistently urge the workforce to utilise private healthcare schemes for mental health reasons, if they are offered as part of their benefits package. The alternative is allowing workers to stay on lengthy NHS waiting lists, which will just exacerbate health problems.
Give support beyond the workplace
Offices can provide an opportunity to join a community where people can build friendships and support networks. Facilitating interaction beyond working hours creates an even more harmonious work force. There are countless social activities which won’t cost a business anything. Employers can support employees to develop a programme of societies like office sports teams, choirs and craft groups. In an increasingly individualised society, strengthening a spirit of unity can make a difference.
"The fact that we need a World Mental Health Day is a sign that much more work needs to be done in curtailing the problem. "
Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage
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