At some point during the year, one Briton in four is likely to experience a mental health issue, and there is no hiding that work conditions and environment can actively contribute to that figure.
Research carried out by Mind UK found that more than one worker in five (21%) has, at least once, called in sick to avoid stressful work situations. Not only that, but it also showed that 42% of UK employees have considered resigning because of their workplace’s negative influence on their mental health.
As a business owner, it’s crucial to make sure that your people are as happy and healthy as can be and that mental illness isn’t treated as a taboo subject. Sometimes, you may not have immediate control over what is causing your employees feelings of stress or anxiety, as they could be triggered by personal, family, or external factors. But on a whole, offering mental health support in the workplace can both enhance people’s morale and save UK businesses up to £8 billion annually.
Here, with Vicky Walker, Director of People at Westfield Health, we outline a few mental health myths that should be debunked in order to promote workplace wellbeing and create an open, supportive work environment.
Myth #1 – Mental health conditions are a sign of weakness
First things first, it’s important to address the fact that people suffering from poor mental health are not weak. Mental illnesses are diagnosed medical conditions, rather than a sign of a fragile character.
There are several reasons why employees may be struggling with mental health problems, from work-related stress to day-to-day life troubles. What’s more, some individuals may be more prone to developing these issues, as mental illnesses could be part of their family medical history, favoured by genes and biological factors.
If a worker confides to you that they are dealing with sentiments of stress, anxiety, or depression, you should recognise this as an act of personal strength. Sharing one’s feelings, especially if they are not positive, requires determination and courage. So, as the employer, make sure to take action to reduce stigma associated with mental health. This way, you can foster an empathetic environment to help all your people flourish in their roles.
Myth #2 – People with mental health issues can’t do their jobs
Another misconception about people living with mental health conditions is that they are not able to carry out their job adequately. But the truth is that mental health issues may, in some scenarios, have little or no impact on an employee’s performance. This generally depends on the individual in question and the nature of the illness.
People experiencing sentiments of stress and anxiety may still be able to plough through, maintaining good productivity levels and attendance records. Working hard – or more than is expected – could even act, for someone, as an unhealthy coping mechanism, adopted to brush aside their condition. However, this doesn’t cure their struggles, and masking their issues could worsen their mental wellbeing in the long run.
It’s not always easy to spot whether one of your employees is battling with their mental health. Therefore, you may want to provide managers with useful guidance and training, which may help them detect any warning signs within their team. By doing so, you’ll give your team the necessary tools to nip a problem in the bud, intervening before it can escalate.
Myth #3 – Pressure always improves productivity and performance
Some believe that pressure can drive employee performance, productivity, and efficiency. It can keep people on their toes, preserve their motivation levels, and help them achieve specific targets.
However, balance is vital. Excessive pressure can have the opposite effect, leading to a collapse in confidence and concentration. Also, people have different levels of tolerance for stress, meaning they respond differently to work pressure.
If the pressure becomes too much to handle, it can rapidly turn into a risk factor both for the employee and your business. One of the most frequent consequences is ‘presenteeism’, which refers to a loss in productivity when employees disengage because they are unwell without taking a leave of absence.
As a business owner, you can prevent this by ensuring your people are feeling enough pressure to motivate them to excel without overwhelming them. As well as benefitting your employees’ personal wellbeing, you’ll also nurture the efficiency of your company.
Myth #4 – Managers can’t assist with mental health issues
Of course, managers are unlikely to have the medical expertise to guide people living with mental health through the recovery process. However, they can certainly make a difference when it comes to maximising their team’s wellbeing in the workplace.
In fact, there are several ways in which, as a manager or company owner, you can instil a positive work culture which accounts for mental health. For example, you can create open forums that allow employees to voice their concerns and feelings, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Embedding mental health into your organisation will encourage workers to talk freely about their personal and professional problems. This means that any worry can be addressed from the outset, so timely support can be offered while avoiding unwanted consequences. What’s more, it will help create a work environment where people are aware, sensitive, and respectful of the pressures faced by their colleagues.
There are many myths surrounding mental health in the workplace. Some employers may view mental illnesses as a ‘weakness’, whereas others may believe that those living with mental health conditions aren’t able to fulfil their job roles. But more often than not, this is simply not true.
This is why it’s crucial for owners and managers to embrace a work culture that fights mental health stigma and focuses on their people’s wellbeing. Ultimately, by creating a supportive, empathetic environment, you’re bound to always get the best out of your team.