It’s World Mental Health Day this week. So we asked Dr Nick Taylor, the founder of Unmind for his views on how we can raise awareness and encourage more discussion in the small business workplace.
In the UK, it’s estimated that 90% of people in employment have been affected by mental ill-health. Two-thirds report having had a personal experience. And even more have had people close to them experience mental ill-health. These are big numbers and show that more people than you think are affected.
We know from our work with many businesses that one of the biggest challenges is moving from awareness to action. This is especially true for small businesses and their owners. They’ve already got a lot of things to worry about like hefty workloads, Brexit and business performance.
Research from Xero earlier this year found that almost a third (28 per cent) of small business owners admit they are too busy to think about supporting mental health in the workplace. And almost half (48 per cent) believe they could be doing more.
It doesn’t matter what size your business is. It’s more likely to be performing at its best when everyone who works for you has a happy, healthy mind. Focusing on workplace wellbeing matters a huge amount.
So what should you be considering when building a proactive and preventative mental wellbeing strategy?
The way you position and talk about mental health is really important. Communicating it as something aspirational and relevant to everyone is crucial. This reduces stigma and improves employee engagement.
Traditionally, the term ‘mental health’ has suffered from the perception that it is synonymous with mental ill-health. It’s associated with struggling and hopelessness. But it is now widely acknowledged that mental health exists on a spectrum. On one end are individuals who are engaged and thriving. On the other end there are those who are struggling.
Regardless, everyone sits on this spectrum somewhere.
Adapting terminology and tone can have a significant impact. It can be as simple as using more inclusive terms. These include words like ‘calmness’, ‘coping’ and ‘happiness’ instead of only using ‘anxiety’, ‘stress’ and ‘depression’.
With so much information out there it can be overwhelming and challenging to know where to start. So leaning on experts and other businesses for advice can really help.
Speaking with the existing users of any initiatives you are considering, or those with subject expertise, can help. It will ensure that the resources and support being provided to employees will ultimately benefit them and not lead to misinformation.
In both physical health and mental health, our ability to access the right care at the right time is critical to our future wellbeing.
That’s why it’s important to bridge the gap between preventative and reactive initiatives within the workplace. This ensures that employees can quickly access the relevant support at any given time.
This doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers and expertise. It’s about having the capacity to be able to provide access and signpost employees towards what’s important. So it could be things like offering an EAP service 24 hours a day or giving them a list of charity helplines that offer support.
Sharing stories and de-stigmatising the topic of mental health has a significant impact on awareness, perception and engagement. Humans love stories, and the ability to connect or empathise with someone else’s journey is very powerful.
Having a wellbeing champion will help play a significant part in communicating mental health initiatives or resources. It’s also important that communication around mental health and wellbeing doesn’t only happen around key dates like Mental Health Awareness Week as there needs to be an always-on approach to ensure people are continuously reminded of the support available to them.
Unmind is a workplace mental health platform.