Rewards & BenefitsHealth and WellbeingIt’s time for businesses to have an honest conversation about mental health

It's time for businesses to have an honest conversation about mental health

With a number of employees still agreeing that their companies don't spend enough time and resources into mental health. Linda Aiello, SVP, International Employee Success at Salesforce discusses ways in which this can be tackled.

In today’s working landscape, employees often see their co-workers more than their closest friends. With this privileged position comes certain responsibilities for businesses. Organisations are now better placed than most to notice changes in their employees, to offer them a safe space to develop, and provide them with opportunities to address personal issues. However, according to recent UK research commissioned by Salesforce, only 56% of UK workers believe their employer is doing enough to support employees with mental health issues. In addition, over a quarter (28%) can’t name a single measure their organisation has put in place to support people in maintaining their mental health.

These statistics make it clear that something needs to change and businesses must consider how they can better safeguard their employees’ mental health – from flexible working to sanctioned mental health days. The backbone of any organisation is its people, so employee wellbeing should be on par with making profit as a business priority.

Time to get serious

Business leaders have a responsibility to support the wellbeing of their employees. This means being aware of common signs of poor mental health and having programmes in place to offer support to all employees, without judgement.

Leaders only have one set of eyes and ears, so it’s important to create a culture which fosters better employee mental health by training managers to recognise potential signals and symptoms. In addition, they can make employees aware of the support available should they need it.

Businesses can offer greater support to their employees if they overtly signal that they shouldn’t feel isolated and can be comfortable in coming forward with their concerns or issues. “Best intentions” and “unofficial cultures” are often misinterpreted by employees so organisations must look at building a genuine environment where employees feel welcomed and cared about.

A big part of this is building an intentional and inclusive culture for employees to thrive. While we often think and talk about businesses as families, the kind of trust and respect needed for these kinds of supporting relationships to develop doesn’t always come naturally.

Instead, it’s about creating the right cultural framework and environment – that includes wellness and mental health support – for employees to be their authentic selves at work. According to research by Deloitte, 88% of employees believe a strong company culture is vital to a successful business. Deloitte’s survey also revealed that there is a positive correlation between employees who feel happy and valued at work and those who say their company has a good culture. Building the right cultural framework means allowing it to grow and refine it over time. It requires constant focus and adjustments from the top down. By addressing and tackling tension and difficulties in the workplace head on, the workforce is more innovative, motivated and better positioned for success.

Building a supportive culture

Only with a structure of care can an organic, caring, familial culture blossom in a workplace. This is often essential for employees who might be unsure whether they can speak out or who they should come to with their problems.

At Salesforce, we work hard to encourage a culture where everyone can be their true selves at work and feel able to admit when they’re struggling. We do this through measures such as providing meditation and wellness rooms on each office floor; flexible working; an Employee Assistance Programme where employees can access support; and Camp Pono, a wellbeing resource for employees that offers tools and guides to help employees focus on their wellbeing, including stress management.

In the UK this year, we also launched a Mental Health First Aider Programme, with in-depth training for a group of employees to be a source of support and guidance to ensure that everyone has access to someone to talk to when they’re struggling.

Taking responsibility

It’s time to have the hard conversations on mental health in the workplace and give employees the freedom they need to develop. This can start with a formal structure for employee care and wellness or open communication on how a business will look to address the issue.

It’s so important that our teams feel they have permission to create the balance they require and to speak up if they need help. While you can’t be there 24/7 for your employee, we can all make sure to be aware of common signs of poor mental health and have programmes in place to offer support to all employees that may need it, without judgement.

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