Mental health in the workplace Q&A with Gethin Nadin.
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem a year, according to Mind. The thing is, there isn’t a big increase in the number of people affected, rather the way people are dealing with it (or not) is getting more visibility than ever.
We’ve seen an increase in questions from the Careercake community on mental health in the workplace. Questions such as: Is it normal to feel this overwhelmed at work? I suffer from anxiety, but how do I tell my boss it’s affecting my work? Then there’s questions like: I think a team mate is suffering with something, how do I start a conversation?
It’s inevitable that we’re going to start talking about mental health at work after all we’ll spend the majority of our life working. And with stats such as 57% of all sickness absence is from anxiety and stress, according to Health and Safety Executive (UK), it begs the question are businesses prepared? Are we doing enough to support our people?
We recently interviewed Gethin Nadin as part of our Let’s Talk series to discuss mental health in the workplace and specifically wellbeing. Author of A World Of Good, an active speaker and Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex, he shared with us some great insights for our audience to consider.
Why are we talking more about mental health?
Careercake: Are there more people with mental health issues or as a society are we more open to talk about?
Gethin: The stigma started to dissolve when people who many look up to and who we all thought had everything started to struggle.
Take the royal family for instance. They talk openly about their own struggles. This is a family that has tried very hard to remain private and not display emotion for hundreds of years. So, for them to start coming forward alongside musicians, actors, CEOs and politicians, the public have started to realise that having a mental health issue isn’t a weakness – it’s something that will likely to happen to all of us at some point.
I also think it was a bubble that was going to burst. With so many people now reporting struggling with mental health, it is for all intent and purpose, an epidemic. If we (as a society) didn’t step in to try to change that, we would cause ourselves huge problems.
Now there’s a long way to go as those who need support are likely not to get it, as they are to find support, so all eyes have turned to the employer as a significant and trusted institution to help.
Q: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing businesses when it comes to engaging with employees around mental health issues?
A: Undoubtedly the biggest challenge is that many leaders are afraid of mental health. Most of us aren’t mental health professionals and don’t know how to help someone who is struggling. This nervousness can lead to offering no help whatsoever. This is especially true of the workplace. Most managers want to help, but don’t know how.
So the biggest challenge is training people managers and colleagues to identify when someone is struggling, know what to do to ensure that person knows they are supported and cared for and then where to direct them for the right (qualified) help.
It’s also realising that stress and anxiety more often than not has a cause.
That could be work, family issues, money worries etc. so managers can actually have a positive impact on some of the root causes or at least help employees cope better when things go wrong. Employers can help employees build the techniques to better manage stress, etc. But this requires an employer to make a commitment and inevitably a financial one, in the welfare of their staff. For obvious reasons, that can sometimes be challenging.
Mental health and the employee experience
Q: Talk to us about the employee experience and why it is important in relation to mental health in the workplace.
A: The employee experience is the total of all the interactions an employee has with their employer. From reading a job advert to retiring and everything in-between.
The way your manager interacts with you personally, the layout/design of your place of work, the support you feel, the development and training you get, the technology you use at work. All of these form part of your employee experience. And just like any other experience you have, small frustrating things can happen that affect that experience negatively.
When that happens, it causes disengagement in employees which affects everything from morale to productivity and revenue. Considering employees are what makes every business successful, their engagement should be a priority for every employer. When the experience is designed well and produces engaged employees, great things happen at work.
Fundamentally, when we talk about the employee experience we are talking about how we design a workplace that humans will love.
Now that sounds obvious, but many organisations don’t design their policies and procedures with a human in mind. We forget that our colleagues are loved, experience break ups, getting worried, are afraid etc. As well as understanding what employees go through inside and outside of work, it’s increasingly important that we realise not everyone is the same. We have different wants and needs in our lives and these change all the time. So ensuring your employee experience is personalised to the individual is also increasingly important.
Q: Are there groups more or less susceptible to being affected by mental health?
A: Statistically there are parts of society that are more susceptible to mental health issues. One of these is the LGBT+ community.
The very nature of having to come out, keep a secret and deal with bullying, harassment and isolation many LGBT+ employees face daily can cause a huge strain.
More than 70% of the LGBT+ community have experienced a mental health issue – that’s higher than the estimates for society as a whole. It’s important for employers to understand this so that they can support their LGBT+ employees to the best of their ability.
Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. On average, across the world, men are more than 3 times more likely to kill themselves than women. Suicide is complex issue with many causes, most of which we may never find out. But it does seem to be that women are more comfortable asking for help than men.
Statistically women are more likely to suffer depression than men and are more likely to attempt suicide, so for men it may be that they suffer in silence more often than women. The media and society is starting to tackle this by promoting the idea that its not weak for a man (or anyone) to admit there is a problem and ask for help. In the UK, suicide is now at its lowest rate since 1981, but there is still so much work to do.
Q: It’s Mental Health Week, any quick-fire wellbeing tips?
A: Doing things for other people has been proven to positively impact our own wellbeing, so Mental Health Week is an opportunity for us to help others with their mental health, while also improving our own. This could be as simple as just calling up an old friend and asking them out for coffee, or even just a message to someone you love saying that you are there for them.
When life is difficult, a text like that can mean the world. During Mental Health Week, lots of brands and organisations promote mental health awareness, so it’s a great opportunity to grow your own knowledge of mental health issues and how better you could support yourself or a friend in the future.
The tip is – do something nice for someone else. We should all be proactively managing our own health and the mental health of others. Someone doesn’t need to be at the point of crisis for us to help.
Watch the trailer for our interview on wellbeing and mental health in the workplace with Gethin.
Benefex is the company behind OneHub, the award-winning employee experience platform. Supporting nearly 1 million employees in 150 global organisations across 30 countries, the platform enables customers to design, manage, and deliver meaningful employee experiences, from benefits and communications to recognition and wellbeing.