There might still be a stigma attached to mental health and talking about it can be as uncomfortable as telling people you have “tummy problems”, however businesses all over the UK are doing their very best to counter this shame, in order to properly tackle their employees wellbeing.
From Duvet Days to ‘Anxiety maps’, companies are getting inventive with helping their employees be their healthiest selves and when 1 in 6 workers are at any one point dealing with a mental health problem, these little ‘cures’ are well overdue.
Last year, Olark Live Chat made the headlines when their CEO, Ben Congleton, replied to an email from one of his employees praising her for her bravery in admitting she needed to focus on her emotional well-being. Within his response Congleton hit upon an important point that organisations needed to “help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work” and highlighted that feeling ill mentally is just as important as feeling ill physically.
With Olark Live Chat sparking discussions about the issue all over the web, some of the responses have been woefully negative, with people sharing their own stories of struggling in a work environment that isn’t so supportive. Yet although this should be a moral issue to care for your employees, following the Equality Act of 2010, these employers may also actually have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to a work environment, if an employee has been legally diagnosed with a mental illness.
Winning Minds ‘Achieving Change’ award in the Workplace Wellbeing Index, Jagex Gaming Company serve as an example to all of us. Stating that they have a “long-term commitment to support the mental well-being of everyone at Jagex”, they established a Time to Talk hashtag amongst their employees, with structures in place to support every member of staff.
So how do we implement these changes within our own office? Knowing how to approach mental illness can be a tricky maze to get through, however you’re not alone in the search. Mind, mental health charity, will come to your office in order to train a group of staff in the exact same way that you would have fire safety or first aid. And whilst employers are prohibited from asking prospective employees about their health prior to a job offer, you can ask prior to their start date, in order to make any adjustments they might need.
Implementing a duvet day system in which employees can take a limited number of days off, no questions asked, will help those employees suffering from anxiety to take the required time to recover, without harming them further with difficult questions. This system has actually been proven to reduce the amount of days taken, whilst further creating an environment of trust. Along this line, implementing flexible working will mean that quality work is done on days when your employees feel well, rather than battling against presenteeism.
Putting structures like ‘buddy systems’ and phased return-to-work policies in place, is just as important as having a good sick leave procedure, ensuring trust and increased productivity. Let’s take advice from Jagex and make a long-term commitment, to care for our employees as they care for our business.