February 4, 2021

Looking After Your Employee’s Health on Time to Talk Day 2021

Today, 4th February, is Time to Talk Day 2021 – an important day that’s aimed to start meaningful discussions and help destigmatise mental health across the country.

The more we encourage conversations about mental health, the more we bring essential awareness to individuals and communities alike. This ultimately breaks down barriers and gives those who are dealing with mental illness – in any capacity – a platform to be open and honest without fear of judgment.

This year, however, looking after your employee’s health on Time to Talk Day is more critical than ever. People all over the world are struggling enormously – especially at work – what with the lockdowns and heavy restrictions brought on by the pandemic, making this year’s conversation bigger and more dynamic than before.

Why is mental health important in the workplace?

A survey performed by The Mental Health Foundation found that 86% of all respondents believe that their job role and being present at work are crucial to protecting and maintaining their mental health.

This means that, for many of us, the workplace is more than just a place to clock in and out of for a paycheque at the end of the month. It’s also where we spend a significant portion of our waking hours, where we meet new people and cultivate friendships, where we manifest the progression and success of our professional careers, and where we thrive.

During these last months, however, the workplace (whether that be in-office or at home) has also been a place where people are experiencing intense flare-ups of stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues – work-related or otherwise – and not everyone feels comfortable talking about it. This is why addressing and normalising conversations about mental health in the workplace is essential for those with existing mental health problems, those at risk, and the workplace as a whole.

If your workplace doesn’t have the right tools, resources, and people in place to help guide and support employees through difficult periods, it can lead to a potentially toxic work environment that can be destructive not only to the employees’ mental and physical health but to workplace productivity and – ultimately – the organization’s bottom line.

When employers emphasise the importance of employee wellbeing and act on it, however, they create the opportunity for workplace communities to feel heard, connected, and supported – helping people get through a dark day so they can hopefully move on to a brighter one. 

What are the main causes of poor mental health at work?

While the cause for poor mental health at work will vary with each person and every workplace, some of the primary causes include: 

  • Insufficient health and safety policies
  • Deficient leadership communication and practices
  • Low levels of employee engagement
  • Lack of internal support for employees
  • Inflexible working hours and conditions
  • Vague tasks, duties, and organisational objectives

Other mental health risk factors might also include unmanageable workloads, bullying, or harassment.

What can HR representatives do to help? 

Conversations about mental health shouldn’t only be reserved for a specific day of the year. Since 1 in 4 people will face a mental health issue in 2021, it’s a great idea for HR professionals to help continue the conversation beyond the 4th of February and keep it constant in the workplace.

Maintaining a positive, pragmatic approach to this flow of dialog will help eradicate the shame of those struggling and give their silence the voice it so desperately needs.

Here are a few more ways HR can help:

Foster an open and inclusive culture
As a people professional, outlining clear expectations of management and aligning workplace policies, training, and practices at every level is vital to prioritising mental health. Doing this will keep your organisation proactive and also give employees a chance to discuss and share their personal experiences without fear of reprimand.

Make the necessary adjustments
Even with a well thought out employee wellbeing strategy in place, employees are still going to struggle with their mental and physical health. That’s why it’s important for HR to keep strategies flexible (i.e. implement flex hours or remote working), especially during a pandemic. After all, the solution to mental health problems is not a one size fits all approach.

Check-in frequently 
Not all employees want to talk about their mental health at work, but it’s important for HR to check in at least every few months to see how employees are getting on. A popular method for doing this is sending out online surveys that promise employee anonymity, encouraging them to provide honest, upfront feedback.

Keep employees informed
Many people who struggle with their mental health are open to having a conversation but don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable talking to anyone within their company. That’s why keeping employees informed on the external resources that can offer them assistance is equally as important as letting them know what’s available within your organisation.

Whether you’re someone who struggles with their mental health, supporting someone with mental illness, or you’d just like to get involved, sign up for the online Time to Talk Day event for access to a variety of helpful tools, resources, materials, and activity packs to get inspired and start talking.

To learn more about supporting and managing employees effectively, you can also take a look at our range of CIPD HR and L&D qualifications here.