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Tackling the mental health crisis: how can businesses provide support to their employees?

By Mike McDonagh, Managing Director, Hays Ireland

 

A recent report co-produced by the European Commission has indicated that Ireland has one of the highest rates of mental illness in Europe. As an issue that is clearly affecting people on a national scale, it should be considered part of any employer’s responsibility to ensure they are promoting a mentally healthy workplace that is equipped to provide support and guidance to those that are suffering.

It has become increasingly obvious to me over the years that this is an issue that businesses need to begin tackling in earnest and putting the support in place to help is a good start. Many people within my own organisation may struggle with mental ill-health this year and from both a personal and professional standpoint I feel I need to consider what direct action we can take.

This World Mental Health Day, try and ask yourself the following three questions:

  • How can we better provide support – not only to each other – but to ourselves?
  • What can we all collectively do to facilitate mentally healthy workplaces?
  • Is there anything more that can be done?

With that in mind, here are some simple things that we can all do, both for ourselves and each other, to ensure a mentally healthy workplace:

1. Prioritise self-care

Mental health is just as real and is just as important to maintain – as physical health. You need to look after it and ask for help if necessary. Simply put, you would seek help for a broken leg wouldn’t you? There is no shame in reaching out when you need it, and if your issue is linked to work – either directly causing it or because you feel it is impacting upon your performance – it is particularly important to make your manager or HR aware of this. A good employer should be able to put steps in place to support you.

2. Listen as well as talk

When was the last time you truly listened? Listening may sound like a small thing, but it could make a big difference to someone. Mental health is often a very personal issue, but talking things through can help. Having a sounding board can stop things escalating and help you to come up with a plan to tackle the issue. We should all try to be open to hearing the experiences of others and be aware of the wellbeing of those around us. Stop for a minute, ask somebody how they are and listen to what they actually say.

3. Take up training opportunities

Whilst treating mental health is best left to professionals, you can often receive training to help colleagues or teams. Taking a certified course and becoming a mental health first aider means you can help individuals with specific advice and raise awareness of any resources and information that’s available.

Even if your company doesn’t offer training, look at what information is available to increase your knowledge. We have podcasts available with Sarah Churchman, Chief Inclusion and Wellbeing Officer at PwC and a business psychologist, Gordan Tinline. Both offer useful information and insight into the topic of mental health.

4. Make work-life balance a priority

Thanks to technology and our ‘always on’ culture, good work-life balance can seem harder to achieve than ever before – and this may impact wellbeing and mental health. Consider undertaking a digital detox, where you don’t access work emails outside of work hours. I have recently stopped sending emails after 8 pm in the evening to encourage a more positive work-life balance internally at Hays Ireland. Think about what balance means for you and what you want to achieve outside of work. You might be juggling family and other commitments so be clear about what work-life balance means for you and then seek help to address the balance.

5. Facilitate equal career progression

Managers should address any concerns employees have around the link mental ill-health has to unequal access to career progression, which may also be contributing to a ‘culture of silence’ around mental ill-health. They can do this by providing structured progression plans for all professionals regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or mental health history, to help everyone achieve their full potential within an organisation.

6. Lead from the top

Leaders should set the tone from the top. Not only should you look after your own mental health, but you should have clear policies and processes in place to support your team. Start with making sure you’ve got the knowledge you need so you can drive change in this area. Part of your role as leaders is likely to be to drive productivity and having a mentally healthy workforce is key to this.

If you are interested in finding out more about these and other wellbeing, diversity & inclusion strategies, including those around mental health, request a copy of the Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion Report 2019 now.

Mike joined Hays in 2002 and lead the Accountancy & Finance, Construction & Property, Office Support, HR, Procurement, Executive and Multilingual teams before becoming the Managing Director of Hays Ireland.

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