Why Focusing On Your Employees’ Mental Health is One of the Most Important Business Strategies of 2020 and Beyond
It’s no secret that this year has brought with it a number of unparalleled challenges that many of us have never faced in our lifetimes.
While people have worked together to build strength and resilience in these challenging times – both in the workplace and in our own home lives – the year has taken a toll in ways we may not yet even know. As we near the end of 2020 and we begin to reflect on the year’s events, mental health is a topic that immediately comes up as one that has grown in importance tremendously over these last several months. This Saturday, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day, which serves a reminder to us all to take the time and space needed to ensure that our mental wellbeing is looked after. This is especially key for businesses, as companies continue to find ways to provide a safe and supportive space for mental health care.
Employee wellbeing and mental health
One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Currently, a staggering 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide, according to a recent 2020 report from the World Health Organization.
WHO describes mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.
So why do one in five employees still feel “embarrassed” to take time off work for their mental health? (People Management, 2019) A sad reality is that a stigma often still exists around mental health, which sometimes prevents the most important conversations from being had. Thankfully, in recent years, mental health has gained visibility, starting to appear more and more on social media channels, in the news and fundamentally in the workplace. However, we as organizations still have a long way to go in not only reducing the stigma around mental illnesses, but also in paving the way for our employees to look after their mental health as much as they would their physical wellbeing.
Mental health and work
Given we spend nearly 48% of our waking week at work, mental wellbeing is of course incredibly important to consider in the workplace. Many environmental factors can influence our mental health, and so companies should strive to make work a positive aspect of life, making it a place that we can not only discuss, but also nurture our mental fitness and wellbeing.
Individual employee wellbeing is also linked to higher engagement and morale, and therefore undoubtedly contributes to individual and organisational productivity.
Changing working patterns and pressures in 2020
2020 will certainly be forever remembered as an incredibly turbulent, unsettling and concerning time for the global population. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global lockdowns have had a significant detrimental impact on the mental health and wellbeing of many all over the world. Whether we’ve felt fear and anxiety about the future, feelings of isolation during worldwide lockdowns, increasing pressures of everyday life, like balancing home, children and work responsibilities, or economic worries, many people who may have never experienced mental health difficulties before have felt their mental wellbeing impacted in some way or another.
With continued uncertainty around the global pandemic, now is a more important time than ever to support each other, as well as take care of ourselves. Whilst the thought of continued lockdown is a major cause of anxiety and concern for many of us, similarly the thought of returning to an office and re-adjusting to continuously changing “new ways” of working is equally as challenging for our mental health.
As a business, we are focused on helping our employees return safely and comfortably to office spaces when the time is right – this not only involves caring for our employees’ physical health in these new work setups, but also mental. Over this past year, our global teams have fast-tracked new initiatives to ensure strong connectivity and togetherness even during isolation, including coaching managers for remote teams, hosting virtual regional and global meetups, and internal events and campaigns that enable fun and downtime outside of the work day, like our global Movement Month charity challenge, which has encouraged our employees to exercise for a cause.
Prioritizing mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
To promote mental (and physical!) wellbeing at work, we encourage all ForwardPMX’ers to take time to look after themselves. For instance, our flexi-time policy in EMEA is intended to allow individuals to be able to fit in activities which make them happy, reduce stress and promote wellbeing. That might be a (virtual) gym class, a walk, picking up their children from school, more sleep or being able to eat breakfast with their partner! We also emphasize the importance of sticking to core contracted hours whenever possible, switching off in the evenings and taking lunch breaks! This is even more important now that we do not always have the luxury of distinguishing between work and home.
Mind, a fantastic UK charity, encourages the following to help with mental health and wellbeing:
- Relax and reduce stress
- Find ways to learn and be creative
- Spend time in nature
- Connect with others
- Look after your physical health
- Try to get enough sleep
ForwardPMX is committed to breaking the stigma around mental health by encouraging openness, respect and empathy, whilst also recognizing our responsibility in providing a duty of care to our global teams. In our attempts to contribute to raising the profile of mental health in the workplace, as a global business we mark Global Mental Health Awareness Day, alongside other related awareness days including Global Suicide Prevention Day. These imperative days involve a mixture of live sessions from key players in the mental health awareness space, virtual coffee breaks and focus groups to encourage and emphasize the importance of talking openly, as well as a number of other activities focused around promoting physical and mental wellbeing.
Ongoing region-specific initiatives include trained Mental Health First Aiders, free monthly Sanctus coaching, therapy sessions and manager training. The business also encourages and supports time off for anyone struggling with their mental health and regularly shares and signposts to key resources, charities and helplines.
We wholly recognise our responsibility to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace, and provide support for our employees, as we believe all global organisations should. Let’s keep talking, sharing and supporting one another at work – the benefits are tremendous.
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