Employers are recognising the importance of supporting employees' mental health
More businesses are seeking out ways to support employees and proactively putting measures and programmes in place to enhance overall staff wellbeing
Ibec’s KeepWell Mark provides organisations with a recognised accreditation in workplace wellbeing. Enrolling in Keepwell Mark programmes provides participating businesses with an assessment tool to help them conduct an extensive audit of their corporate wellness practice. Photograph: Getty Images
Be yourself. It’s not just the good advice your mother always told you, it is something employers need to encourage too.
This is because right now almost one third of senior leaders cite finding talent as their most significant challenge.
“It’s more important than ever that we embrace and harness the diversity in our organisations, ensure that we are creating cultures of inclusion and encourage everyone to bring their whole selves to work,” says Dr Kara McGann, head of social policy at Ibec, Ireland’s largest business representative organisation.
Given that we spend around a third of our lives at work, a workplace culture that stymies diversity takes a toll, not least because “it’s a long time to hide parts of yourself,” says McGann.
“It can have a huge impact on our wellbeing - leading us to feel isolated, stressed and burned out. Productivity drops and a person’s mental, emotional and physical health can suffer.”
One aspect in particular that people report “hiding” is around mental health. “In the not too distant past, mental health was an area that people did not understand, or feared, and as a result it was not talked about, particularly in the workplace,” she says.
The number of organisations offering stress management and mental wellbeing programmes to staff has doubled in the last five years
Yet its impact will have been clearly felt, both in distress for the individual and in issues for employers such as absenteeism, productivity loss or damage to work relationships.
Such problems are only compounded where people “fear being open about their mental health; don’t want to be seen as outside the norm; and only want to be identified as professional, competent and successful employees,” she says.
Ibec has been focusing on this issue for almost a decade and over that period has seen a significant shift in the approach of employers in relation to mental health.
More are seeking out ways to support employees and are proactively putting measures and programmes in place to enhance overall staff wellbeing.
New research from Ibec shows the number of organisations offering stress management and mental wellbeing programmes to staff has doubled in the last five years.
“This is really important to see, as it shows that employers are recognising the importance of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.”
Fostering a workplace that is supportive to mental health disclosures starts with culture. “We can’t expect someone to disclose about their mental health if it doesn’t feel safe for them to do so. The organisation needs to signpost to its workforce that they can safely disclose and that support is available. This takes effort, commitment and resources, and we’ve really seen employers embrace this,” says McGann.
“Like physical health we all have mental health that can fluctuate over time, whether due to grief or anxiety about an event or project, all the way up to a clinically diagnosed mental health issue. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy to see as a physical health issue,” she says.
This can mean that in the workplace some people are successfully managing their mental health while others may need some support or assistance for a period of time.
It’s also important to treat people as individuals. For example, think of how deadlines or challenges impact people differently - motivating one and stressing another. Similarly the supports people need can differ too, she says.
Simply having a mental health policy isn’t enough – colleagues and line managers in particular need to know what to do if someone comes to them in distress, or indeed if they feel someone needs support and want to reach out.
Good practices are being demonstrated by employers of all sizes. These can range from raising awareness about stigma and demystifying the whole area of mental health, to training mental health first aiders, running company-wide wellbeing programmes and supporting mental health charities.
But the “embedding of good practices can be seen where real conversations are taking place among employees about mental health and wellbeing,” she says.
Ibec’s KeepWell Mark provides organisations with a recognised accreditation in workplace wellbeing. Enrolling in Keepwell Mark programmes provides participating businesses with an assessment tool to help them conduct an extensive audit of all aspects of their corporate wellness practice.
Employers are seeking out the KeepWell Mark not just for productivity reasons but to help boost employee engagement, happiness and wellbeing
Participation also includes the services of an expert assessor who will support the business in identifying - and making – the changes required to improve its performance in relation to wellbeing.
“It’s a partnership approach that helps benchmark your organisation and provides the metrics and measurements to help guide you,” says Sophie Moran, KeepWell senior executive at Ibec.
“Simply undergoing the audit helps build awareness internally. Our analysis shows that employers are seeking out the KeepWell Mark not just for productivity reasons but to help boost employee engagement, happiness and wellbeing.”
For more information, visit Ibec’s KeepWell Mark, thekeepwellmark.ie