Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK takes place from 9th to 15th May. This year’s theme centres on ‘loneliness’, the different experiences of it that people have and how it affects mental health.
A study by Totaljobs found that 60% of employees feel lonely at work. Some of the main reasons include feeling pressure, not fitting in, not knowing anyone and facing discrimination. And loneliness can negatively affect stress levels, self-esteem, sleeping habits, relationships and productivity. For many, this has only increased further since the start of the pandemic.
And when it comes to work-related loneliness stemming from problematic behaviour such as bullying and discrimination, our research shows that a staggering 71% of people asked said they felt they had nobody to turn to at the time they experienced it. And 73% said they felt like their colleagues didn’t step in to support them.
So how can we help reduce loneliness, especially in the workplace where clearly so few people confide in a colleague, manager or HR? In this blog post we will talk about some best practices that we carry out at Culture Shift that help support our team members deal with or open up about mental health. We also talk about some companies we feel are doing great work as well.
At Culture Shift we offer everyone the chance to take up to five Wellbeing Days during the year. This can be when we don't feel ourselves and want to prioritise our mental health and wellbeing. These can be taken with no questions asked, although colleagues in the past have openly said when and why they are taking them as a way to encourage open and honest chats with the rest of the team. This can also help end the stigma surrounding staying silent on mental health problems.
We have had a number of in-office get togethers recently that have centred around mental health awareness days, including Time To Talk Day and National Day of Reflection. They were optional to attend and there was no pressure for anyone to talk about mental health, or anything at all. They were nice to allow those who wanted and were able to attend a chance to take a collective break from work.
To spread a little happiness and positivity across the team, we have put together small packages for team members in the past and continue to do so. The first was a goody bag of treats to help brighten up people’s day and that can help with mental wellbeing, including hot chocolate sachets, a bath bomb, tealights, tissues and examples of an inspirational song about mental wellbeing. We also give out work anniversary cards and presents to celebrate and recognise the length of service and achievements of our colleagues.
All our employees can use YuLife, the game-changing app where they can gain access to a GP by phone or video, get mental health support through counselling, legal and financial support and advice, and career and life coaching. Many of our team members use it to measure their steps, take part in the fitness challenges via Fiit or meditate using Calm, which in turn earns them YuCoins to exchange for rewards such as gift vouchers for a variety of different retailers and discounts. It has been a great perk and success!
Everyone at Culture Shift has spoken of their love of working here and are strong advocates for the inclusion and sense of belonging we have. This means everyone knows they can turn to their line manager, our CEO Gemma McCall or anyone else in the team if they want to have a talk about anything, from mental health to any other issues they are experiencing in and out of work. We don’t want any of our team members to feel alone, whatever they are going through, and we make sure we are all supportive of everyone.
Gemma also proudly leads by example, sometimes talking about mental health on LinkedIn and championing support for employees, which is a core value of Culture Shift and one she intends to live by. This has inspired other team members to talk openly about mental wellbeing both in person and online.
With a hybrid working model, Culture Shift prides itself on giving all team members the freedom and option to work remotely and from home if and when they choose, as well as work flexible hours to suit their home and personal lives. We strongly encourage everyone to take regular breaks when they need to and line managers will regularly check in with their teams via Slack when not together.
Through conferences we have attended and our recent LGBT+ webinar, we have heard of many organisations of different sizes that have staff networks for different groups of employees. These networks allow like-minded people who share similar intersecting identities or interests to get together. Some may use them to organise social events, work to help change diversity and inclusion policies or as a support group to discuss issues anybody may face.
Large-scale organisations such as Jaguar Land Rover have improved mental and physical wellbeing facilities for their employees with a “Centre for Wellbeing” currently being rolled out at all their major sites. They have implemented classes that focus on Mind, Body, and Life. These include activities such as VR, mental resilience, Pilates, a programme on long Covid, and lessons on nutrition and substance misuse.
Furthermore, on the highly debated question of whether mental health training works, the statistics they provided at the Health and Wellbeing @ Work Conference on their face-to-face course taken by managers shows that it is making a difference.
EY, one of the Big Four account firms, has also taken steps to help their hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide. In 2016 they launched the “r u okay?” campaign to encourage discussions of mental health in the workplace and to provide more services to employees. Within months this saw a 30% increase in calls to their mental health assistance hotline. There was also a surge in visits to the campaign’s wellbeing pages and attendance to local and virtual events.
Member of the “Magic Circle” - a group of London-based, multinational law firms - Clifford Chance also leads the way in looking after the mental wellbeing of their 7000+ employees across five continents. To tackle mental health issues, some of the initiatives Clifford Chance have taken include launching Peppy, a digital healthcare and wellbeing platform that allows organisations to support their people during major life transitions such as fertility, parenthood and menopause.
Although 71% of people say their employers increased their focus on mental health due to Covid, only 25% said this was maintained in the last year.
According to mental health charity Mind, at least 1 in 6 workers experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Research shows that work is the biggest cause of stress in our lives. This means it is absolutely essential for organisations to help support their employees’ wellbeing and encourage them to prioritise their mental health. Mental Health Awareness Week can hopefully be a catalyst for this change and growth, but employers should make sure this is ongoing and not just use awareness days to pay lip service to the causes.
As mentioned, our study also sadly shows that people’s mental health can often be a result of problematic behaviour at work. And the worryingly high statistics we quoted at the beginning of this article are testament to the various reasons why so many people don’t turn to anyone else for help or to report it.
This is why our anonymous reporting system can be a vital platform for people to use. Report + Support can allow employees to find out more about what they think is happening to them or simply let someone know there is a problem while still remaining anonymous and not raising a formal complaint. They do not necessarily need to want further action to be taken. Support articles can be on a wide range of topics depending on what you want on there, including ones on where to get mental health support from both within and outside of the company.
To find out more about our anonymous reporting platform and how it can help benefit you, book a call with one of our dedicated, specialist team members here.