Reference: MIND, Mental Health Organisation (2019)
Mental Health in the workplace has become a huge topic over the last couple of years (so much so, we had it as our feature topic at our 2019 HR Retreat). For many of us work is a huge part of our lives and often where we spend most of our time yet we will all experience times when things in life can get on top of us, whether that is work-related, health, relationships, illness, etc.
Whatever line of work you are in, stressors are all around us and can dramatically affect our mental health, even the way you would usually cope with day-to-day things in life. Mental Health is a broad term that includes a number of systems and conditions, the extent of these can range from mild to severe but all can result in less productivity at work, struggling with normal aspects of life, effects on your physical health and also affecting relationships in and outside work.
It is becoming more apparent in the importance of addressing mental health at work to ensure a productive, happy environment for all, especially for those with existing issues, those at risk and for the workforce in general. Addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12% (mentalhealth.org 2019) which is clearly a vital benefit for any business.
A few years ago, before joining Four, I was involved in an incident that was a trigger for me developing PTSD. It was an eye-opening experience in understanding my mental health and how a single incident could have such a dramatic effect on a person – a topic I was never fully aware of. Fortunately, after around six months (and with some help) I was back to feeling myself and had used work as an escape to keep my mind occupied.
When I started at Four in 2016, a question was presented on my new starter form (regarding treatment, medication, health) that I didn’t feel comfortable lying about. I asked to speak to my new director, feeling like I needed to fully explain what had happened when I developed PTSD and how it wouldn’t affect my performance going forward. Not an ideal conversation to have on the first day of a new job and with the stigma around mental health. I went home feeling deflated and wondering what he would think of me. It was something I hadn’t really spoken to anyone about as I had always felt people would see me as a failure, a liability and not able to fulfil my job role.
This luckily was a misconception on my part as my directors were fully supportive but the harsh reality is, that is how so many people feel in that situation. The 2019 stats state that 71% of people with a mental health problem are too scared to tell their employer – this really is something that needs to change!
I think it is safe to say I proved to my directors pretty quickly that it definitely wasn’t going to affect me – I worked hard and have consistently exceeded my targets for the last three years – even exceeding my own expectations!
My experience when I started at Four has urged me to speak a lot more openly about my mental health and since, I have been really keen to support the team and business going forward.
To increase my own awareness and to give me the ability to support the staff at Four I recently completed the ‘Mental Health Awareness and Resilience’ course. The course has equipped me with a thorough understanding of mental health, the impact on a person at work, triggers of stress, identifying these triggers and dealing with a staff member who is struggling. I am also going to complete the ‘Mental Health First Aid’ course in the New Year which will develop my knowledge further.
I believe that having someone in the office who has been on the course and also can reflect on their own experiences is hugely beneficial to current and new staff, giving everyone the option to speak openly and in complete confidence with someone who really does understand.
Alongside this, Four have started engaging in monthly Health & Wellbeing events which is something I co-ordinate. Each month we do something that gets everyone away from their desk, proven to increase employee morale/engagement, increase productivity and create a more inclusive culture within our business. Activities have ranged from team sport days, to treasure hunts, and just a chat over pizza and drinks.
Reference: MIND, Mentalhealth.org, The Priory Group (2018/2019)