From education to employment

World Mental Health Day – making mental health a priority

Mental health should be on par with brushing your teeth – a priority! That’s the aim of World Mental Health Day, an annual event on the 10th of October, set up by the World Federation for Mental Health.

Dave Birchall, Chief People Officer at Node4, argues that being aware of mental health this year is more vital than ever. “However optimistic we try to be, it is undeniable that we are all in for a tough winter – as the nights draw in, everyone is having to tighten their belts with costs rising at unprecedented rates. This can have a significant impact on mental health, with 40% of people reporting poorer mental health when their financial situation worsens,” he summarises.

Joanna Leach, Chief People Officer at HelpSystems, explains that burnout amongst employees is common in fast-paced and constantly evolving industries.

Leach continues, “our industry is no exception, with research suggesting as many as 51% of cybersecurity professionals have experienced extreme stress or burnout during the last 12 months. Employers need to provide the right environment and support to keep workers both physically and mentally healthy. Mental Health Awareness Day offers organisations an opportunity to reflect on whether they have the right initiatives in place to ensure their workers’ mental health is prioritised.”

The cost not only felt in the back pocket

Mental Health issues cost UK employers around £56 billion in 2022, up 25% from 2019. However, the cost of being unprepared, or unable, to support your employee’s well-being can be felt in more ways than one. The Deloitte UK Mental Health Report 2022 found that one-third of people expected, or would have liked, more mental health support from their employer. Therefore, companies need to ensure they are aware of the effect the work their employees are doing can have on them, to reduce any mental health-related absences and increase retention.

Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy at Exabeam, elucidates that, “For those working in the cybersecurity sector, there is rarely such a thing as a ‘quiet’ working day. Security analysts receive an overwhelming number of alerts every day, leaving them inevitably suffering from alert fatigue and unable to consistently identify genuine threats. This can be unmanageable, and especially when security teams play such a vital role in an organisation’s core operations, it can lead to a serious risk to both the environment and the mental health of the employees who are charged to protect it.”

Terry Storrar, Managing Director of Leaseweb UK, acknowledges that “the importance of overall wellbeing is widely acknowledged now.  In recent years, the majority of workplaces have taken considerable steps towards looking out for their employees’ mental health.  However, recent research indicates that in many cases there is still a shortfall in the type of support that employers provide.”

Ensuring employee happiness

Over the last couple of years, career paths have become less linear as people want new challenges and experiences and a more comfortable work-life balance. As a result, corporate values, the roles on offer, the rewards, and the working environment of businesses, are also changing for the better.

Leaseweb’s Storrar highlights that “one of the key dynamics to improve on is for workplaces to put in place proactive support for employee mental health.  According to the CIPD, 36 percent of companies have reactive support in place; but this does not invest upfront in well-being that can help prevent mental health issues.”

Node4’s Birchall delineates that over the next couple of months all employers need to be aware that “they cannot single-handedly resolve employees’ financial worries. Simply taking the time to show your employees that they are supported can do wonders for people’s mental health. Alternatively, more structured support, such as providing tips and techniques to help manage stress or offering access to professional support services, can help individuals gain back a sense of control in spiralling circumstances.”

HelpSystems’ Leach highlights that, “organisations can start by emphasising the need for a healthy work-life balance, and create a culture that encourages open discussion around mental health and keeps the lines of communication open.”

Marco Fanizzi, SVP & GM at Commvault International agrees, adding that Commvault encourages “more spontaneous calls and conversations to recapture a sense of what remote working had taken away.”

As well as promoting a healthy work culture, flexible working can make a huge difference to employee mental health, argues Jen Lawrence, Chief People Officer at Tax Systems. “For this reason, it is ingrained in our culture, and we ensure that our employees make full use of it. We understand everyone has their own lives, and all experience stress differently, so allowing employees to go to that afternoon gym class, meet their friends at lunch, or walk their dog, can provide them with a much-needed break from their desk. By trusting our team, and not asking for justification for their work hours, our employees are happy, motivated, and committed.”

“It’s important for employers to provide the flexibility to work at home or come into the office if they want to,” agrees Alex Pusenjak, VP People & Culture, Fluent Commerce. “It’s also about making work fun, thinking of creative ways to engage teams, providing health and wellbeing initiatives and setting an example when it comes to work/life balance. We have staff who finish their day early to coach sporting teams, volunteer and do school pick-up and drop-offs.”

Businesses leading by example…

Commvault’s Fanizzi explains that employees’ motivations have changed, and therefore so has the business’s messaging. “Our continued message to our staff is to primarily think about yourself, your well-being and your family. And then, help us take the business and drive sustainable growth.”

“We have introduced proactive measures designating four mental well-being days for all employees globally, in addition to regular leave,” he finishes.

Birchall illuminates that Node4 enables all employees to have “access to a counselling service that is available every hour of every day and we have a wellbeing centre that focuses on mind, finance, fitness and nutrition.”

“Other initiatives should include regular check-ins from line managers to manage workloads, and health-based benefits such as company wide mentor schemes or medical insurance,” suggests Richard Guy, County Richard Guy, County Sales Manager, Ergotron. “Building a supportive and positive company culture must be about delivering for workers’ needs. But in doing so, it can build more successful teams, and a flourishing business which, in turn, moves the economy in the right direction.”

Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, comments that they have software which automates and simplifies some of the essential financial tasks within this business. Scantlebury explains that the aim of this is to make life easier and to create “a better work/life balance by helping to deal with the month-end stresses faced by finance teams.”

Time to move employee mental well-being to the top of your business agenda

Aqilla’s Scantlebury concludes: “This time last year, we were talking about the toll that lockdowns were having on our individual and collective mental health. Thankfully, most of us are pretty much back to normal in that regard — seeing family, catching up with friends, and going on holiday. But inflation and rising energy costs are having an impact on people’s mental health.But thinking more widely, marking mental health day provides a good excuse to talk about any issues that we might face as employees, colleagues, family members or friends. It also offers a chance for us to discuss positive ways to build our mental resiliency to deal with some of the challenges that 2023 might present.”

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