Zoe Morris is President of Anderson Frank and has almost 20 years’ experience in recruitment. The company has won several industry-based awards under her leadership.
It’s almost twenty years since I began my career, and the focus on employee wellbeing has been one of the biggest changes in the workplace that I have seen. In recent years this has naturally extended beyond just physical wellness and into a focus on mental health.
While people are definitely more open about what was previously a taboo subject, it’s still a problem that employers need to work hard to combat. One piece of research saw 85% of UK adults admit that they regularly experience stress, and work was listed as the second biggest factor in this.
Without a doubt, the onus is on businesses to ensure they’re doing all they can to support their workforce to try and reverse this trend.
What causes it?
There are many things that can trigger stress, although the Health and Safety Executive divide it into six different causes, including being unable to cope with the demands of the job. When two thirds of people wake during the night worrying about work, and a third check their emails in the middle of the night, it’s clear that employers have a duty to correct it.
As mental health costs the economy way more than any other type of illness, it’s essential that you’re supporting your workforce. As well as having a more socially-conscious approach to employee welfare, the impact on you financially is huge on top of that. The Centre for Mental Health estimated that absences cost more than twice as much as physical sickness in 2017, at a hefty £34.9bn. That works out at £1,300 per employee, so no matter the size of your business, it’s a considerable cost to try and reduce.
How to support it
Good management is the simplest way to approach and encourage better mental wellness within the workplace. Ensure your company culture is one where people feel able to speak out if they’re under pressure or that the demands on them are too great. All managers should take time to schedule regular one-to-one meetings where employees can provide this feedback. This can and should be a more comfortable environment for people to share their concerns than on the ‘shop floor’.
Although physical and mental wellbeing are separate, there’s a definite link that suggests a healthy body can help with a healthy mind. To this end, providing facilities for employees to participate in physical activity can also have a positive effect. We deliver a variety of exercise classes for our employees around the world, from yoga to body combat; the aim is to be as inclusive as possible and offer something for all employees’ tastes.
We also provide fresh fruit for employees in all of our offices to encourage healthy snacking during the day, and Wellness Wednesdays, where we provide a healthy lunch and have a speaker come in to talk about different ways employees can improve their lifestyle.
Focussing on these things, as well as investing heavily in employee incentives and get-togethers, engenders a company culture that feels very much like a family. With this sort of mindset, the hope is that employees feel like their colleagues are an extended support network, which can result in a more relaxed outlook to minimise the risk of stress.
As well as the financial burden that poor mental health in a workplace can have, the positives go way beyond that. A more rested and relaxed group of workers will almost always be more efficient. They’ll be able to make better decisions and likely be more creative when it comes to solving problems. There isn’t a single industry where having stressed staff produces better results.
A building with fresh and positive employees in it will bring a buzz that customers and potential candidates all want to be a part of, making your recruitment easier and business better. And that combination gives you the best chance of delivering success both in the short and long term.