Rise IQ rounds up the latest on: mental health in the workplace
Rise IQ pulls together a regular collection of topical news which covers informative, thought-provoking and inspirational stories about health and wellbeing in the business world. Our focus this time? Mental health in the workplace.
Many businesses now understand that there’s a certain expectation on them when it comes to supporting their employee’s mental health and wellbeing. So this article from Forbes, Mental Health in the Workplace: the big issues for employers in 2020, is probably well worth a read.
It’s a huge topic, so naturally, there’s a lot to digest here, but we think the following issues are worth a specific mention: many employers are still relatively inexperienced and unfamiliar with mental health issues, lots of employees are faced with highly pressurised and competitive environments, and mental health issues are costing businesses money. It’s also worth knowing that employees with a mental health issue might be protected in the UK by the Equality Act 2010.
With personal experience in the fast-paced corporate world, the “highly pressurised work environment” comment specifically caught our attention. How can we essentially encourage a “less competitive and less pressurised” environment when the job itself is highly demanding? It’s especially difficult when the employee wants to do a good job and is motivated by being the best at what they do. It’s a tricky balance isn’t it? We think that a good place to start might be business culture, as well as exploring how additional support and guidance can be given to those employees with highly pressured, demanding roles.
Towards the end of last year, we hit a pretty good milestone with the Mental Health at Work Commitment. Why was it significant? Well, a number (30 actually) of pretty big names signed up, including Barclays, Royal Mail, and John Lewis. And as we all know, we need the big names to play ball if we want to get anywhere. The framework is based on the Thriving at Work qualities and is comprised of six standards which ensure that businesses prioritise and promote mental health in the workplace. In short, they need to be proactive, possess the right tools, and ensure that managers have the confidence and skills to deal with mental health issues. They also need to be more transparent, with key measures reported internally and externally, including annual reports.
In many ways, the one about transparency shows how far we’ve come, doesn’t it? Mental health used to be swept under the carpet, but now businesses are considering it important enough to include key measures in their annual reports. Whilst there’s a long way to go, this is surely heading in the right direction?
We thought this honest account from Natasha Oswal was really inspiring. Natasha is the founder of Boundless Media and has recently spoken out about the feelings of loneliness she experienced after moving abroad for work. She explains how her loneliness gave her more time to get comfortable with herself and focus on the importance of her own mental health. Natasha now thinks that “EQ is more important than IQ” where emotional intelligence gives you the insight to read your own thoughts and feelings, before attempting to interact with others. We think personal accounts like this are so important when it comes to normalising feelings that many of us feel ashamed to admit. For many different reasons, most of us will feel lonely at some point or another in our lifetimes, but if we take Natasha’s approach we can perhaps use it as an opportunity for personal reflection and development.
According to recent research last year, seven out of 10 (71%) UK employees have seen workplace stress affect their health. A whopping 55% said that a heavy workload was the main cause of stress within the workplace. According to the managing director of Moorepay (who undertook the research), supporting staff when it comes to mental health “doesn’t have to be expensive or involve a complete process overhaul”. But we’re not quite so sure we entirely agree with this. There’s a risk here that businesses might become complacent if they think that the solution is cheap, simple and easy. We don’t say this to scare businesses away from the problem, but we do say it because it’s still a very easy issue to sweep aside. If 71% of people say that stress has affected their health at work, then it’s something that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive and thorough way.
We know, we know, indoor plants are good for our health isn’t exactly groundbreaking news, but we love it when there’s a study with some facts behind it. So we were interested in this recent research from Japan which investigated whether plants can provide stress-reducing benefits to office workers. According to the research, which was carried out in an actual office rather than an artificial setting, participants were asked to gaze at and care for a small plant for a full three minutes each time they began to feel tired. The results showed that anxiety decreased and there was a reduction in psychological stress, compared to the control group without a plant. So, perhaps a simple one for employers to take on board: start investing in some office plants!