Health and WellbeingMental Health Awareness Week 2019Making the workplace a make or break for good mental health

Making the workplace a make or break for good mental health

What role does your workplace play in the mental wellbeing of your employees? What can HR professionals and business leaders do to improve these conditions and encourage positive mental health amongst your employees?

With the average UK employee working 37.4 hours a week, it’s no surprise that our workplace environment has an effect on our mental health. Particularly as many of us are using the time outside of our official working hours to keep working and not to recharge our batteries. Our recent research revealed that 56% of working Brits work extra hours because they have too much on, and a quarter feel pressured to do so by their boss. With this week marking Mental Health Awareness Week, it seems like the perfect time to stop and reflect on this. Chieu Cao, Co-founder of Perkbox explains..


Encourage work-life balance

The first step is to promote a healthy work-life balance in your organisation. Create a culture of openness regarding workload to build an environment where employees feel they can speak up if the demands on them are too great. Consider, also, implementing policies such as duvet days (an unscheduled extra day’s leave from work to alleviate stress), flexible working and unlimited holidays.

However, when implementing these initiatives make sure you focus on how you implement them, as this is the ultimate key to success. For example, implementing an unlimited holiday policy that results in people taking less time off is completely futile.  Similarly, what’s the point in having a “work from home” policy if all it does is create a culture of micromanagement and a lack of trust between managers and their reports?

In fact, boundary setting is an important way to make improvements to your employees mental state too. With well over a quarter of employees in our research revealing that both bosses and colleagues have contacted them outside of working hours, it’s worth establishing with your employees if you expect a reply outside office hours or it can wait until the next working day. Admittedly, we have all had times when out of hours contact is inevitable, but save it for those rare occasions and avoid the temptation to turn it into the norm.

Support, support, support

Another way to improve the mental health of your employees is to have a proper support structure in place and to establish a culture of psychological safety, where there is a  shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.

Ways to create this system of support  in your workplace include implementing an EAP,  having mental health first aiders, counselling and online GPs for staff. Examples of companies ahead of this trend include Innocent Drinks, who give all their employees a free gym membership encouraging them to enjoy a proper break over lunch or after work, and Netflix which has an unlimited vacation scheme in place offering new parents up to one year paid time off (a rare thing, particularly in the US).

Establishing a culture of psychological safety will make employees feel like their true selves are accepted and respected by their employer. One way we try and create this environment at Perkbox is by not fearing failure, but encouraging it.  In fact, one of our company values is ‘try it, test it, get it done’. By altering our mindset and not taking failure personally and consequently relieving stress, we’re able to look at failure for what it is: a chance to re-evaluate, and ultimately grow.

Don’t undervalue the importance of communication

 And finally, remember that often the biggest sources of stress for employees come from a lack of communication or ambiguity. To try and create a stress free work environment, avoid having too many communication channels such as Slack, Workplace, Email and Instant Messenger as this will be counterproductive. At Perkbox, we also have ‘all -hands’ meetings every quarter which offer a chance for the senior leadership team to communicate company wide updates transparently and employees can ask any questions they have, comfortably.

Recognition is also important. If employees feel valued by their employers and are performing well – they will have a renewed sense of job security and feel less stressed. This will have a positive impact on their overall well-being and mental health.

By focusing on improving the three pillars of work-life balance, support and communication, the mental health of your employees is bound to improve.

Who knows, it may even have a positive impact on your mental health too…

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