Mental Health Awareness week: Workplace stress

Embrace HR Mental Health Awareness

How would you feel if your employees were putting their own mental health at risk in their bid to succeed at work? We look at how you can be aware of how workplace pressures can affect your staff and how you can help…

As May 13-19 is Mental Health Awareness Week, make this the time to take a look at the mental wellbeing of your staff.

How often do your staff work outside of their set hours? Is there a culture of ‘presenteeism’ in your workplace – where anyone who leaves the office at five, or works part-time, or has time off sick, is looked down on, or considered a slacker?

According to the CIPD, presenteeism has quadrupled since 2010 [CIPD: Presenteeism hits record high in UK organisations as stress at work rises 02/05/2018] and according to Personnel Today the trend is rising for employees to go into work when feeling mentally unwell [Personnel Today: Mental health presenteeism on the rise 10/10/2018], and yet more staff are taking time off sick.

What has come to light in research from wellbeing charity CABA, is that as many as three-quarters of HR professionals believe that making a good impression at work is having a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of employees.

Technology has a part to play in this – thanks to smartphones we are all available 24-7, at the end of the phone or contactable via email. And businesses can be guilty of expecting staff to check emails or take calls over weekends and evenings when they are not officially contracted to work.

Take a walk through your workplace after the official end of the day. How many staff are still in the office? If there are more than you expected, ask yourself why – ask them why! Being realistic, there will always be someone who has a deadline or a major project coming up who is likely to put in more hours, but this should not be the norm.

Encouraging this culture puts stress on your employees. They end up working late, maybe drinking to wind down after the day, or not having time to spend with family, exercise, or enjoy a hobby.

Having well-rested staff is only going to benefit your organisation. A well-rested team with a good work/life balance will perform better, be more focused and less likely to make careless mistakes. They are also less likely to suffer from physical or mental illness.

Think about how you can help your staff enjoy good mental wellbeing. Conduct a survey to find out how much they feel they must stay behind after working hours, discover how much work is actually done during that time, and why people feel they need to work past their normal hours.

Ensure that senior managers and line managers are on board and understand the issues, as they will have a great impact on preventing these unhealthy working practices.

Establish guidelines around contacting staff outside of working hours and when they are on annual leave.

Finally, work out whether there is a culture of presenteeism or if there are too few staff to deal with the workload. HR can be the champion of promoting a healthy work/life balance. Have some fun with it – maybe if working overtime through the week is an issue, think about introducing an early home time on a Friday afternoon, or as some companies do, turning Friday afternoon into a social downtime.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it could help your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.