World Mental Health Day: Supporting employee mental health
This year's World Mental Health Day (10th October) is themed on ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.
Jason Brennan, Director of Leadership & Wellness at Wrkit, dissects how businesses can support employee mental health during the staffing crisis, in the run up to World Mental Health Day.
Between May and July 2021, job vacancies in the UK grew by 43.8% against the previous quarter resulting in almost a million total vacancies – an all-time high. We are seeing some of the implications of this on consumers with empty supermarket shelves and queues at petrol stations, but the crisis could also have a detrimental effect on employee wellbeing.
The pandemic has forced many businesses to consider mental health of employees
Discourse around mental health, and particularly burnout, has certainly picked up throughout the pandemic as people got used to working longer hours whilst dealing with the stress of living through a global pandemic.
Incidences of workers burning out and needing to take time off work have been prevalent, especially among healthcare staff, with mental health-related absences reported to have cost the NHS £805mn from January 2020 - June 2021.
Now, widespread staff shortages will mean that employees are forced to:
- Pick up extra work
- Work longer hours
- Take on more responsibility to plug in the gaps
This raises serious concerns about long-term stress that will lead to stress related issues.
This year for World Mental Health Day, we are asking employers to be conscious of their employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Are employees having to pick up a lot of extra work to fill in for vacant jobs, illnesses and holidays? Is this resulting in long hours and increased pressure? If so, are they receiving the recognition and rewards they deserve to ensure they feel valued and appreciated? It is also important to recognise that the pressure will be felt by managers, as well as staff.
ESG evolution as employees urged to invest in mental health wellbeing resources
Unfortunately, with the pressures on staffing at the moment, larger volumes of work and longer hours are perhaps an inevitability, but as part of an employer’s duty of care, extra support needs to be made available.
Mental health wellbeing resources could include:
- Mindfulness tools
- Access to professional support when needed
- Self-help guides
- Encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance
- Ensuring employees are getting enough exercise and sleep will also go a long way in supporting overall wellness
Employers should strive to create an environment in which employees can openly discuss issues with a trusted person before they culminate into serious problems.
There should be flexibility and understanding to ensure employees’ needs are met whilst the country recovers from current challenges.
This kind of atmosphere will help employees to feel valued, recognised, listened to and cared for, boosting employee satisfaction and leading to higher levels of retention and improved employer brand, keeping staffing issues to a minimum.