According to Business in the Community, ‘Workplace mental health is a collective responsibility’. As an employer, it is important to recognise when your staff may be under too much stress and know how to help them to manage it by creating an environment that encourages conversations that negate stigma around mental health. As an HR Consultant in Manchester and Cheshire, I have experience in handling and understanding what can often be a sensitive situation. This in mind, I would like to share the following HR Advice on Mental Health in the workplace.
How can excessive work related stress affect mental health?
Stress comes in many shapes and forms and can affect people’s lives in very different ways. We will experience stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress (Anxiety and Depression Association).
Work related stress is defined as “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.” by the Health and Safety Executive UK. Apart from excessive workloads, home life and bullying in the workplace can also be factors that contribute towards work related stress. The importance is to understand when everyday stress becomes a more significant problem, potentially resulting in mental and physical illness.
According to www.hse.gov.uk , ‘The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1510 per 100,000 workers.’
To really put the impact of stress and mental health on work into perspective, www.hse.gov.uk also states ‘The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days.’
Whilst these factors can admittedly have a negative impact on the smooth running of your business, it is imperative that you strive to understand the effects of stress from an employee’s perspective.
Your personal life is taking a toll – the bills are piling up, relationships are causing heartache and nothing seems to be going right. Despite all of this, you come into work on time every day and try to work to the best of your ability.
Deadlines are cutting close and the pressure is getting to you. Lunch becomes a rushed sandwich at the desk or often forgotten and you rarely take breaks. You work overtime as much as is necessary, barely leaving time to address the personal problems that are weighing you down.
One day, in spite of your efforts, your manager calls you into his office.
He says you haven’t been working to your best ability recently; you appear distracted and unmotivated and it is affecting your work. This is a warning.
You take this ‘minor conflict’ as a personal attack and begin questioning your own abilities.
As time goes on, your stress becomes worse due to heightened anxiety. You lose your appetite and your sleep pattern is irregular causing you to be lethargic. Isolation takes hold because you don’t talk to anyone. You try to get the work done, but it is hard to stay productive when you feel like nothing is going your way.
Eventually, you start calling in sick – ‘I’m not really sick’ you think, ‘but what’s the point in going in?’ Your boss tells you that if things don’t change soon, he’s going to have to find someone else. This, in turn, makes you more stressed and even less motivated for work.
The stress gets worse and this pattern continues. Before you know it you’ve been signed off work with anxiety and depression.
The above is a classic example of someone struggling with their mental health in work, and we must be aware that ‘3 in 4 employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health.’- www.wellbeing.bitc.org.uk . Without the proper HR Advice on Mental Health, employers can address these situations in ways that unintentionally escalate the problem.
To again quote www.hse.gov.uk , ”The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety (LFS) were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.’
What can employers do to help reduce stress in the workplace?
There are many ways in which we can reduce stress and encourage positive mental health within the workplace.
Triple Three Solutions asked friends at Skyzack to give us some examples on how they utilise HR Advice on Mental Health to maintain a healthy, positive and productive workforce.
Skyzack’s Simple Steps to (an almost) stress-free workplace:
- Stay Active – It’s important to take regular breaks during the working day. We prioritise the importance of a lunch hour. This gives us the opportunity to treat ourselves to a tasty meal, get outside and get some exercise.
- Tea Breaks! – A real simple one, treat yourself and your colleagues/staff to a brew.
- Variety – Along with the importance of a strong work/life balance, work itself needs variety. Life can quickly become monotonous on a 9 to 5, keep staff learning/trying new things to challenge themselves and stay interested.
- Decoration – Staring at a plain white wall can seem clinical and dull, don’t be afraid to decorate the office and add personality to the workplace. But stay clear of clutter!
- Teamwork – Here at Skyzack, we are lucky enough to have a strong, close-knit team. However, this isn’t always the case in larger companies. Try to ensure that no colleague is left feeling excluded – arrange team building activities, staff do’s etc.
Triple Three Solutions HR Advice on Mental Health:
Here at Triple Three Solutions, we are here to assist you with all of your HR concerns. Knowing how best to address mental health situations in the workplace can sometimes require training or an impartial, outside perspective. As an HR Consultancy, we thrive on working with people through difficult circumstances and are always ready to help.
Get in touch today on 0333 050 3330 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org – to learn more about employee’s mental health and well-being in the workplace and make your business a healthier, happier and more productive place to work.
In the meantime, Triple Three Solutions suggests the following websites for any immediate advice on mental health well-being in the workplace;
Rehab 4 Addiction offers a free helpline dedicated to helping people suffering from drug, alcohol and mental health problems. Rehab 4 Addiction was established in 2011 by people who overcame addiction themselves. You can contact Rehab 4 Addiction on 0800 140 4690.