What Leaders Need To Know About Mental Health At Work

Mental health is something that each and every one of us has to work at and maintain, whether we’re a senior leader or just starting out. It’s high time we shed the stigma associated with discussing mental health and its relationship with the workplace.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental wellbeing and resilience, particularly when it comes to business. For better or worse, we’ve developed an understanding that the state of the world has a significant knock-on effect on our employees and in turn, how the business performs.

The issue spreads much further than covid-19 of course. Even before the pandemic, 1 in 5 US citizens suffered with a mental health condition each year, that’s 18.5% of the population. The chances of your employees being impacted in some way are quite high, and it’s time we start addressing it.

For leaders, it can be hard to strike the balance between supporting your team with their personal concerns and guiding them towards a common goal, but it definitely works in your favour to spend time on your business’s mental health policy. The World Health Organization has worked out that every $1 invested into the support of mental health sees a return of $4 in improved productivity.

In aid of Mental Health Awareness Month, we thought we’d delve into the topic of mental health in the workplace and explore what leaders can do to foster healthy attitudes in their teams.

The cost of ignoring mental health

Aside from breeding a culture of fear and secrecy, ignoring mental health at work has some pretty hefty costs associated. Let’s talk numbers for a second:  Mental illness costs America up to $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year. That’s billions in lost work days, loss of productivity and high staff turnover. In fact, depression alone accounts for 400 million lost work days – imagine how much smaller than number would be if people felt comfortable enough to be their authentic selves at work.

Now we’ve got your attention with those scary statistics, let’s now look at this from a recruitment and staffing perspective. Employer brand matters, and with sites like Glassdoor on the scene, there’s no running away from reviews that cite poor mental health as a reason for leaving. We deal with candidates week on week who are actively seeking companies that have a strong stance on mental health among other important factors like diversity and inclusion.

So not only could you lose some really talented people, but you might actually stop yourself from replacing them too as mental health policies become the standard rather than a perk. With all that in mind, it just doesn’t make business sense not to introduce a formal mental health strategy in your organization.

The ripple effect

The ripple effect refers to exactly what you’d expect: when someone is experiencing mental distress, it filters through every aspect of their lives including physical health, interpersonal relationships and work.

Gone are the days of “leaving your personal problems at the door”. In 2021 we understand more than ever that what goes on outside of work gets carried into work with you, whether you want it to or not. Instead of adopting an approach that demands your staff to be at their best every day regardless of how they’re truly feeling, let them know that it’s okay to have things going on outside of work that impact them.

The opposite just increases presenteeism, or worse, encourages them to call in sick if they’re concerned about not firing on all cylinders in the office.

What you can do

Believe us, we get it. After a lifetime of being told we shouldn’t talk about mental distress at work, it may seem unprofessional to start now. However, change comes from the top. With the pandemic creating the perfect platform for these discussions to come up organically and genuinely, there’s a real opportunity to transform the resilience of your team.

If you’re convinced of the importance of nurturing a mentally healthy workplace culture but aren’t sure where to begin – we’ve got your back.

Leading by example

Now this may be outside of your comfort zone, but something we’ve always found to be really effective is for you to initiate the conversation on mental health to show your workforce that it’s okay to open up. Your employees look up to you and will follow your lead on what is and isn’t okay in the workplace.

Whether that’s sharing your own experience or by flexing your knowledge on the subject of mental health – letting your team know that you understand will make them far less likely to hide their struggles from you. Remember, if employees feel like they need to be secretive about poor mental health they are far more likely to be absent, perform poorly or just end up leaving.

Mental Health First Aid

It’s highly likely that you have designated first aiders in your business in case someone gets physically hurt while at work, why not extend that duty of care to their mental wellbeing too? Mental Health First Aid is still a relatively new initiative, but in essence it trains elected members of the team to look out for signs of mental distress and teaches them how to communicate effectively with that person.

It isn’t a substitute for therapy or medical intervention, but Mental Health First Aid serves as a great intermediary between spotting a problem and working on it. Giving your Mental Health First Aiders a clear presence in your business lets your team know that their wellbeing is being taken seriously and helps them feel supported.

We’re big advocates for Mental Health First Aid. In fact, here at Consult we have 2 qualified Mental Health First Aiders dedicated to team USA and a further 3 over in the UK. You can find out more about Mental Health First Aid and what it entails over on our UK blog.

Mental health policy

When it comes to embedding a new culture around mental health, getting something formalized in policy form is a great starting point. However, there’s a right and a wrong way to do this. We’ve all been there where a policy is introduced, a big fuss is made about it, and it’s never looked at or referenced ever again.

Avoid falling foul of ‘policy for policy’s sake’ by introducing regular mental health initiatives with your team that support your new strategy and keep it fresh in people’s minds. Whether that’s by introducing business-wide use of mindfulness apps like Headspace, Employee Assistance Programs like Calm where they can access subsidised therapy, or setting up a weekly yoga class or running club to burn off some stress.

Whatever you decide to do, being present as a leader is incredibly important to show that you’re championing positive change in the organization. Lead the charge and watch your business reap the rewards of a more engaged, productive and happy team.

If you’re interested in hearing more about what you can do to boost your employer brand to attract the most talented people in the renewable energy market, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a friendly chat.

Share this:

A profile picture for William Vamplew

William Vamplew

28th May

Hiring Advice Blog