Creating mentally aware working environments at KPMG
- 3 Min Read
According to Business in the Community’s Mental Health at Work Report 2017 three out of every five employees have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work.
We spend half our lives, if not more, in the workplace. For people who are experiencing problems with mental health, existing in this environment every day can be extremely difficult. Not only is this a challenging situation for the individual but it also creates problems for their employer around productivity. Thankfully there is much that companies can do to improve things.
It’s the right thing to do
Employers have a responsibility to provide and actively advocate a safe and inclusive culture where individuals are able to be themselves without fear of bias, and this is the first step towards colleagues feeling they can bring their “whole selves” to work. Admitting to a mental health issue is often difficult due to the fear of a negative reaction. It is still too often seen as an implication of weakness or that a person isn’t able to cope with the demands of their job. Business leaders can play their part in removing this stigma by vocalising their view that suffering from mental ill health is no more of a weakness than having a physical ailment and should be treated as such.
As partner sponsor for KPMG’s mental health network, Be Mindful, I am committed to helping my colleagues feel comfortable in their work environment by ensuring to provide them with the tools and support to help them remain mentally healthy. This includes promoting agile working and offering different types of workspaces to suit the individual’s needs. We know that physical wellbeing is important to maintaining good mental health, so we promote our onsite gym which many colleagues have found incredibly useful in helping them unwind, destress and reset during or after a busy day.
Two years ago we introduced inclusive leadership training to equip our senior staff and those in a managerial capacity to have what are often considered difficult conversations. Sometimes it is noticeable when people are struggling at work and managers need to feel confident that they can intervene in a way that will make the situation better rather than worse. This training impresses upon them the importance of empathy and respect for the individual, and that no two situations are the same so communication is absolutely key.
Businesses must also empower their people to nurture their own mental health. The Be Mindful network is run by individuals who have themselves experienced mental ill health. Members organise events and provide a safe space for discussion to encourage colleagues and their wider networks to share their experiences and find common ground and support. We also have our BeWell helpline which is a confidential service providing advice and support to those that may not feel comfortable discussing their personal situation face to face.
It is so important to keep talking about mental health. Having conversations with colleagues, family and friends helps to destigmatise the subject and allows the individual to feel comfortable discussing the issues that are affecting them. While discussions around mental health remain taboo there will always be instances of people ‘suffering in silence’. A genuine “how are you” could be all it takes to start a conversation around mental health, and with the addition of authentic organisational leadership, training, and tools, this conversation could be the beginning of a journey towards better mental health.