Mental health in the workplace

Dealing with work-related mental health issuesOctober 10 is the World Mental Health Day, so use this opportunity to promote a mentally healthy workplace.

According to Health and Safety Executive UK, one in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their life. It is estimated that mental health conditions cost UK employers between £33 to £42 billion a year. At Berley, we work with many small business owners across London and know that mental health has profound financial impacts, as increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, high turnover and compensation claims can hit the bottom line and cripple a business’s operation.

Many of the small business owners we work with are keen to foster a mentally healthy workplace, but often do not know how to go about doing it. At the same time, employees who suffer from mental health related issues are likely to display ‘avoidance’ behaviours whereby they do not want help or support from colleagues. Also, according to a survey by ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), 72% of employees believe that it is a manager’s role to recognise and address stress and anxiety in the workplace. The upshot is that we have three different ideas going on and none of them exactly interact with one another.

Dealing with work-related stress

When an employee feels there is a mismatch between what they can do versus what is expected of them, they may feel ‘pressure’, causing work-related stress that can have an impact on one’s mental health.

There is no easy answer when it comes to tackling one’s stress as it depends on the situation and one’s experience and even genetic makeup. The general advice is:

  • Take some time off and do things that you enjoy.
  • Try meditation or mindfulness.
  • Ask a doctor for help.
  • Talk to someone you trust in your personal or professional life.
  • Make a wellness action plan, as suggested by the mental health charity Mind.

It must be said that stress is not entirely negative. Some people like a challenge, like shouldering extra responsibilities or working to a deadline – these people are likely to view stress as something that pushes them to grow, personally and professionally. Some people also enjoy their work tremendously and like the sense of achievement.

Stress is also not isolated to employees. Small business owners who work tirelessly to achieve their goals may also suffer from work-related stress. One client told us that he quit his 40 hours a week employment life to start a business that requires him to work 80 hours a week. We know, we have been there before so our advice is, if you are in a situation that you are wearing multiple hats, please consider outsourcing and let someone else share the workload with you.

Dealing with workplace sexual harassment

Any unwanted sexual behaviour at work can also cause one to suffer mentally as feelings like anger and fear may lead to depression. In the UK, the definition of sexual harassment is broad, including:

  • Someone has made sexual comments or jokes.
  • Someone has touched you in an unwanted way.
  • Someone has shown you offensive material.
  • Someone has displayed sexual and offensive material on screensavers or has put up posters of such nature.
  • Someone has sent you emails with sexual content.

When it comes to dealing with workplace sexual harassment, the textbook answer is asking the victim to talk to HR, but many small businesses do not have a team of HR professionals on hand to assist. Our advice is to make sure that your team is aware that they can go to you for help and you must also act immediately.

Support is key

Supporting a team member who has mental ill-health is key and by that we mean:

  • Help them to recover, like encouraging them to seek professional help or asking them to take time off.
  • Help them to stay well, like implementing mindfulness at work.
  • It is also possible to assign an internal colleague or an external advisor to implement a series of programmes, like how to support other colleagues in distress or how to create a culture of openness.

Small business owners need support too

At Berley, we like working with small business owners because we admire their drive and determination to launch a business and create employment opportunities for their team members. But even superheroes need time to rest and recuperate between missions, so knowing how to recognise emotional exhaustion is important.

If you have been facing unrealistic demands from clients, suppliers, partners and even team members, please talk to a business mentor as soon as possible and draft out action plans to tackle every issue.

This October 10 is the World Mental Health Day, so use this opportunity to do a mental health check for yourself, your company, and also support those who need help.

Best of luck.