By: 20 May 2024
How employers can tackle poor mental health in the workplace

Keira Wallis, head of clinical operations at Healix.

 

With multiple generations working side by side in today’s workplace, business leaders must understand the different challenges each group faces and how they can be best supported to thrive.

One area that is of particular importance is mental well-being. With stress being the number one reason why people missed work in 2023 according to the ONS, it’s vital that businesses put measures in place to support people from all walks of life.

In a recent survey by The Workforce Institute, 60% of employees said their job is the most significant factor influencing their mental health. As head of clinical operations at Healix, I’ve seen first-hand how organisations can reap the rewards of investing in the well-being of their people.

So, what can employers do to proactively play a role in improving the mental health of people from all generations and backgrounds to ensure organisational resilience?

Company culture is key

It’s vital business leaders ensure there is an open, transparent approach to recognising the challenges that different individuals might face.

If for example, someone has children or older parents or if they’re a carer, which is often a consideration for those in the ‘sandwich’ generation, how does your company policy ensure their life situation is recognised and accounted for?

It’s vital that companies ensure policies around carers leave, or parental leave are fit for purpose and reflect the needs of the individual.

For younger generations, flexible working is becoming an increasing priority, with a recent Deloitte survey finding that two-thirds of younger people opt for remote and hybrid working. With over half (51%) of Gen Zs and 47% of UK millennials saying they feel stressed all or most of the time, employers must take this into account and create a culture that prioritises providing a work-life balance.

While some companies offer mental health days, if people are finding their workload unmanageable, then taking a day off is something they likely won’t do for fear of falling behind. It’s therefore vital that mental health initiatives are not just a sticking plaster, but that support is ingrained in workplace policies and culture. If you have an appropriate workload and the right resources in your team, then this will lead to lower stress levels and in turn stronger mental health.

Giving generations space

While there’s no one-size fits all solution, research has shown that peer support is valuable for employee wellbeing.

Encouraging different generations to share their experiences can be a good way to help people feel that their voices are heard. Employers can take proactive steps, including bringing people together from the same generation, life stage or work level into a focus group, creating opportunities for psychological safety and a space to share their experiences.

Often business leaders talk about a top-down approach in terms of how we want senior managers to be leading the culture and that is not to be dismissed, however when you’ve got an influx of people from younger generations coming into the workforce, giving them the space to talk about the changes they want to see can be really powerful.

It’s something that we’ve seen as an organisation ourselves. We’ve now got a whole host of younger people working for us and they aren’t afraid to talk about mental health. This has had a ripple effect across the business as people from all generations feel more comfortable talking about their situations and how they can support each other.

Employee forums are another key way to give space to people to express their needs and suggest changes to an organisation’s policies and benefits to help them better manage their mental health.

Considering the individual

Every individual is different when it comes to how they want to receive information and mental health support.

Some people might prefer to access support digitally, while others may prefer to have a conversation with a mental health first aider who can provide guidance through signposting.

Ensuring managers are trained in noticing when their teams might need further support is crucial in ensuring people’s individual needs are accounted for.

When I spoke to Vicky Fytche, wellbeing lead at Champion Health, she said:

“Take the time to get to know your employees – not only professionally, but personally as well. Understand what motivates them, what makes them happy, what challenges them, what their strengths are, how they best learn and how they best work. When we truly know our people, we don’t respond to or support them with policies and protocols, we support them as individuals.”

It’s also vital that your employee benefits package is aligned with the needs of your workforce as this in turn can improve overall wellbeing. Flexibility is key, and at Healix we advocate a healthcare trust which gives businesses more choice and flexibility over what provision they offer and for whom. Benefits could include fertility support, regular health MOTs or support for neurodiverse individuals.

It’s not an easy task for business leaders to navigate the different needs and experiences of their employees, but what is clear is that workers are increasingly prioritising their wellbeing and demanding more of their companies. To stay ahead in a competitive business environment, firms must step up and prioritise mental health for the future of all generations.

 

Image: Provided by Ambitious PR/Canva.
Emma Cockings
Emma is a content editor for Claims Media. Emma is a experienced writer with a background in client-centric personal injury for a major firm. She has attended and reported on multiple brokerage events throughout her career.