As Mental Health Week kicks off, it reminds us that our mental well-being deserves attention, understanding, and support. In an era marked by relentless demands and increasing pressures, nurturing mental health is essential for individuals and organisations alike.
Data from the HSE shows that in 2021/2022, 17.0 million work days were lost due to depression, stress and anxiety, with each person taking an average of 18.6 days off. So this week serves as an opportune time to focus on the significance of employers taking an active role in creating initiatives to support the mental health of their employees. A workplace that prioritises mental health not only boosts productivity and engagement but also fosters a culture of compassion, empathy, and resilience.
It’s no secret that mental health issues are prevalent in today’s society. The stressors of modern life, the cost of living crisis and the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a surge in mental health concerns. Anxiety, depression, and burnout are becoming all too common, affecting people of all backgrounds, professions, and age groups.
Employers are uniquely positioned to make a substantial impact on the mental well-being of their employees. By recognising the importance of mental health and implementing initiatives that support their workforce, organisations can create a safe and supportive environment where employees can thrive both personally and professionally.
Gone are the days when mental health was treated as taboo, confined to whispers and swept under the carpet. The increasing awareness and destigmatisation of mental health have paved the way for open discussions and proactive steps towards promoting mental well-being. As a result, employees are no longer expected to leave their mental health concerns at the door when they step into work.
By investing in mental health initiatives, employers not only demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their employees but also reap the benefits of a happier, more engaged, and more productive workforce.
So let’s have a look at some of the initiatives employers could adopt to support the mental health of their employees:
Flexible working refers to a work arrangement that gives employees more control over their working hours, location, and/or how tasks are accomplished. This approach recognises that individuals have diverse needs and responsibilities outside of work that can impact their mental well-being and that each employee works differently. By providing flexibility, employers enable employees to achieve a better work-life balance, reducing stress and improving mental health.
Firstly, flexible working allows employees to manage their time in a way that suits their personal needs and preferences. This flexibility can significantly benefit individuals with mental health conditions or those facing challenging life circumstances. For example, someone dealing with anxiety may find it helpful to have the option to adjust their work hours to avoid rush hour traffic or accommodate therapy appointments. Similarly, parents can better balance their work and family responsibilities by having the freedom to adjust their schedules to attend school events or care for their children’s needs.
By reducing the pressure of rigid work hours, flexible working empowers individuals to prioritise self-care, fostering better mental well-being.
Job sharing is a flexible working arrangement where two or more employees split the responsibilities of a single full-time position and share the same job. It’s not 2 people working part-time jobs in parallel – that’s part-time work. Job sharing is 2 people, through shared responsibilities, identities and accountability occupying 1 position. They are a single unit, a team and a complete resourcing solution
This arrangement allows individuals to work part-time while maintaining a cohesive and productive work environment. Job sharing can significantly benefit employees’ mental health, particularly when it involves individuals from different generations.
Job sharing provides a unique opportunity for intergenerational collaboration and knowledge exchange. When employees from different age groups come together in a job-sharing arrangement, they bring diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences to the table. This dynamic can create a supportive and enriching work environment, fostering mutual learning and growth.
For younger employees, job sharing with more experienced colleagues can offer valuable mentorship and guidance, leading to professional development and reduced stress. Likewise, older employees who may be transitioning towards retirement can benefit from the flexibility and reduced workload that job sharing provides, easing the pressure and promoting overall mental well-being.
Furthermore, job sharing can help alleviate the burdens and responsibilities associated with a full-time position, reducing stress and improving work-life balance. When you are out of the business and your job share buddy is in, you can truly relax and take time out. This this leads to greater headspace, more creativity and improved mental health.
By sharing the workload, employees can enjoy more time for personal pursuits, family commitments, and self-care. This flexibility is especially beneficial for employees at different stages of their careers and life situations. In this way, job sharing can contribute to improved mental health by allowing individuals to maintain a fulfilling career while tending to their personal needs and responsibilities.
Roleshare is a fantastic platform to advertise your jobshare roles or find roles that are currently available.
Often added to the same bracket as flexible working, hybrid working combines remote work and in-person office presence and can play a crucial role in supporting employees’ mental health. So it’s all about “WHERE” you work rather than how, when, why and who with, but it’s extremely useful nevertheless.
This flexible approach allows individuals to balance the benefits of working from home, such as reduced commute stress and increased autonomy, with the social interactions and collaboration opportunities found in the office.
By giving employees the freedom to choose where and how they work, hybrid models promote a sense of control and autonomy, leading to improved mental well-being. Individuals can customise their work environment to suit their needs, whether it’s finding a quiet space for focused tasks at home or benefiting from social connections and support in the office.
This flexibility helps employees maintain work-life balance, reduce stress, and nurture their mental health by creating a working arrangement that aligns with their individual preferences and circumstances.
Remember that often you need to have a 2-way conversation with your team to see which suits them (although it must fit with business objectives too). Remote working can really suit some roles and personalities and not others, so please keep an eye on this to make sure young people are receiving enough support and have a positive working environment, too much isolation or loneliness could contribute to wellness issues or less productivity.
Phased retirements offer a gradual transition from full-time employment to retirement, allowing employees to gradually reduce their work hours or responsibilities over a period of time. This approach can have significant positive impacts on employees’ mental health as they approach the end of their careers.
By providing a structured and flexible pathway towards retirement, phased retirements help individuals maintain a sense of purpose, social connections, and financial stability, which are all crucial for mental well-being.
One of the key ways phased retirements support employees’ mental health is by reducing the stress and pressure associated with a sudden and complete transition into retirement. Instead of abruptly ending their working life and retiring of the edge of a cliff, individuals have the opportunity to adjust and adapt gradually, easing the emotional and psychological challenges that can arise from such a significant life change. This phased approach allows employees to maintain a sense of identity and purpose, positively impacting self-esteem and overall mental well-being.
It also provides a smoother transition, allowing individuals to gradually adjust to new routines and activities outside of work, reducing feelings of anxiety or loss that can occur when abruptly leaving a long-held position.
Furthermore, phased retirements facilitate a smoother shift from a highly structured work environment to a more flexible and leisure-oriented lifestyle. It allows employees to gradually explore and engage in new interests, hobbies, and social activities while still having the support and structure of work.
This could be a great way to bring returners back into the business, almost akin to onboarding and helping knowledge transfer from the phased retirees and increasing confidence for the returners.
This can be especially beneficial for mental health, as it provides a sense of continuity and helps individuals navigate the potential challenges of adapting to a new lifestyle.
Succession planning, the process of identifying and developing potential future leaders within an organisation, can positively impact employees’ mental health. Knowing that there is a clear and well-defined career progression path can provide a sense of security and stability, which is essential for mental well-being.
When employees see that their organisation invests in their professional growth and development, it creates a positive work environment that fosters motivation, engagement, and a sense of purpose.
One way succession planning supports employees’ mental health is by reducing uncertainty and anxiety about their future. When employees clearly understand the skills and experiences needed to progress in their careers, they can set realistic goals and take proactive steps to develop themselves professionally. This clarity and direction contribute to a sense of control and empowerment, reducing stress and promoting mental well-being. Employees feel supported and motivated to invest in their growth, knowing their efforts can lead to future career advancement opportunities.
Furthermore, succession planning can foster a positive and collaborative work culture. By providing opportunities for mentorship, coaching, and knowledge sharing, organisations create an environment where employees feel supported and valued. This sense of belonging and connection enhances job satisfaction and overall mental well-being.
Employees are more likely to experience a positive work-life balance when they have access to professional development opportunities and feel that their organisation cares about their long-term success. Succession planning not only prepares individuals for future leadership roles but also creates a culture of growth, support, and inclusivity, which are vital for employees’ mental health and overall happiness in the workplace.
Remember, mental health matters. It’s time for employers to step up, prioritise the mental well-being of their employees, and embark on a journey towards building a supportive and thriving workplace.
Let’s ensure that Mental Health Week is not just a temporary observance but a catalyst for lasting change in how we address mental health within our organisations. Together, we can make a positive difference and create a healthier and more compassionate work environment for all.
And if you’re looking for assistance in making your organisation a more inclusive and supportive workplace, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I would love to help you reach your business goals.
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Sarah started her career in fmcg marketing working as a brand manager on Clover and as an interim manager on Clover (twice) and Quorn. She founded a start-up interim management company in Gloucestershire and that business changed the percentage of women and diverse talent in senior marketing and HR roles. Sarah specialises in attracting, onboarding, developing, engaging and retaining diverse talent into forward thinking businesses to improve productivity, performance and profit. Flexible working and wellbeing play a large part. Since covid-19 wreaked havoc on the job landscape, Sarah has a created an innovative programme to get senior experienced professionals back into work or fine-tune their current role so that it makes happy.