“While stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it often leads to depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. It can also lead to physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and joint and muscle problems.”
-Mental Health Foundation
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, the Mental Health Foundation conducted a survey of over 4,500 people regarding stress. The study cites that 92% of people sometimes feel that they are under too much pressure at work.
Today, most companies understand that employees who are encouraged to be in touch with their mental health concerns also tend to be more productive. The World Health Organization (WHO) carried out an important study that established a strong connection between mental health and economic productivity. The WHO found that investing in treatment for anxiety and depression leads to a fourfold return in people’s ability to work and contribute to the economy.
So as the stigma around mental health challenges continues to erode, HR managers are moving beyond awareness to practical action. Here are some ideas on how you can help keep your organisation healthy and happy:
1) Champion change from the top: For HR to really make mental health a top priority, C-level executives need to take the first step in encouraging greater transparency around the topic. Deloitte recognises the importance of their people’s mental health: the company is training a quarter of its senior leaders in Mental Health First Aid skills.
2) Talk the talk: Conversations about mental health should be commonplace. HR can play a crucial role in making discussions about anxiety, depression, and suicide no different than a talk about workplace safety. Personal testimonials from your people about their challenges with mental health should be encouraged.
3) Mental health days: Your organisation’s sick leave policy should include days off for mental health issues. This will send a clear message to your people: if they start to suffer from poor mental health they should seek professional help immediately. One recent report found that 217 million days of work are lost every year because of mental illness, and substance abuse disorders.
4) Spot the red flags: Preemptive and preventive care can save your people a lot of mental and emotional anguish. One idea is to conduct monthly surveys, and ask your people to self-report. Also, be on the lookout for telltale signs of deteriorating mental health, things like tardiness, reduced quality of work, changing appearance, reduced sociability, performance issues, and more and more time off being taken. If spotted early, therapeutic solutions like counseling may be enough for a suffering employee to address the mental health issues at hand.
5) Mental health tech: Technology has advanced to the point that it can be used to help resolve mental health issues in the workplace. Companies are investing huge amounts to develop digital health strategies that promote mental health in the workplace. One report found that over $16 billion has been invested by VC firms into 800+ digital health companies over the last four years. One example is Remente, a goal-setting app that gives self-help information, offers advice, and provides guidance based on cognitive behavioral therapy.
Address your people’s stress: A major part of looking out for your people’s mental health is developing practical ways to detect, understand, and manage their stress. By taking proactive steps to create a mentally healthy organisation, HR can help improve its people’s quality of life.