November is the month where men across the globe try to ‘grow a mo’ in support of the charity Movember, which aims to change the face of men’s health. However, this worthy cause is certainly not an issue that businesses can only afford to think about once a year. The office for National Statistics recently reported that men represent three quarters of UK suicides and that men aged between 45 and 49 are in the highest risk category. This is clearly a year-round issue and is the focus of my blog this week.
Why do men struggle with their mental health
The reasons why men seem to struggle more with their mental health than women are often explained through observations about societal expectations and cultural norms. Traditionally, men may have felt pressured to conform to traditional ideals of masculinity, which discouraged them from expressing vulnerability or seeking help for mental health concerns. Communication styles also differ. Some men may find it more challenging to communicate their emotions openly.
Studies and data support the theory that, though anyone can experience depression and anxiety, men may be more likely to express their distress through irritability, anger, or physical complaints rather than openly discussing their emotional struggles. Men are often at a higher risk for completing suicide, even though women may attempt it more frequently. This is partially attributed to the fact that men tend to choose more lethal methods.
These gender stereotypes may be oversimplistic in today's world and the struggles undoubtedly apply to people of other genders. Recognizing warning signs and providing appropriate support is therefore crucial in society and the workplace regardless of gender.
Why employers should prioritise mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
Employers have a duty of care towards their employees and, under health and safety legislation, are obliged to put appropriate measures in place to assess risks and hazards both mental and physical and to take appropriate action to support their employees.
Duty and moral obligation aside though, good health and wellbeing in the workforce and employer led initiatives have many positive impacts:
Boosting performance and productivity
Increasing motivation, engagement and retention
Promoting diversity and inclusion
Reducing absenteeism and presenteeism
Cutting direct and indirect costs related to the above
In a nutshell, removing the stigma and embracing health and wellbeing strategies is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes a lot of business sense.
Recommendations to support your employees
Given we spend so much of our lives at work, and workplace stress is often a contributing factor to mental health, employers play a key role in encouraging and improving the health and wellbeing continuum of all their employees.
Here are some practical steps firms can take:
Ensure absence and family friendly policies are legally compliant and clearly detail absence and return to work processes, leave allowances, the criteria for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Company sick pay entitlements.
Review other policies to ensure they promote a healthy work environment. This includes policies related to workload, flexibility, and health and safety.
These should be communicated to all workers.
Promote Open Communication:
Foster a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health concerns.
Encourage managers to check in with their team members regularly and create a safe space for discussions about work-related challenges and well-being.
Encourage team members to check in with each other for mutual support.
Provide Mental Health Resources:
Offer resources such as pamphlets, brochures, or access to online materials that provide information on mental health and available support services.
Consider providing access to mental health apps, online counselling services, or employee assistance programs.
Promote free confidential helplines. Charities such as the Samaritans and Mind offer free help and guidance.
Training and Awareness Programs:
Conduct training sessions to raise awareness about mental health issues and reduce stigma.
Train managers to recognize signs of mental health challenges and provide guidance on how to support employees.
Flexible Work Arrangements:
Implement flexible work schedules or remote work options to help employees manage their work-life balance.
Consider allowing flexible break times to accommodate appointments or self-care activities.
Promote Work-Life Balance:
Encourage employees to take breaks and use their annual leave.
Set realistic work expectations and avoid a culture of overwork.
Create a Supportive Environment:
Foster a supportive workplace culture where employees feel valued and appreciated.
Recognize and reward employees for their contributions to promote a positive work environment.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs):
If feasible, consider offering Employee Assistance Programs that provide confidential counselling and support services to employees facing personal or work-related challenges.
Stress Management Activities:
Organise stress-relief activities such as yoga sessions, mindfulness workshops, or team-building events to promote a healthy work environment.
Promote Physical Health:
Encourage physical activities and wellness initiatives. Physical health is closely linked to mental well-being.
Some companies use their reward packages to promote health and wellbeing. This might be something small like providing free fruit and healthy snacks or something larger like free gym membership.
Consider Private Medical Insurance Schemes
Private Medical Insurance Schemes provide private healthcare cover to eligible employees. Knowing their medical expenses are taken care of can give employees additional peace of mind and can contribute to a positive company culture.
Consider Income Protection Schemes
Many larger employers include the option for income protection as part of the benefits package. It is work investigating the actual costs of such schemes and making these at least available to employees who may prefer to have the additional comfort.
Seek Professional Guidance:
Consider consulting with mental health professionals or occupational health experts to tailor initiatives to the specific needs of your organization.
More serious mental health problems definitely require the support of the medical profession. Stigmas which need to be eradicated still remain and help is often not sought as early as it could be.
Make reasonable adjustments
Genuine discussions with employees about how they are doing, aiming to identify any areas which may result in the need for support and adjustments.
Be proactive as an organisation in offering adjustments to job roles, hours and working arrangements.
The latter point is arguably the most important takeaway from these tips. Showing an interest in the health and well-being of your employees, helps identify any issues and sends a clear message of caring and support to your employees. Initiating frank and open discussions may help alleviate employee concerns and pressures.
Mental health and wellbeing is something that affects us all. Creating a healthy workplace is an ongoing process that requires commitment and effort from all levels of the organization. Regularly seek feedback from employees to assess the effectiveness of your initiatives and adjust as needed.
How Hummingbird HR Services can help
At Hummingbird HR Services we can provide further guidance and support for your SMEs health and wellbeing challenges, including the policies and practices you can put in place, and the reasonable adjustments you could make, to support your employees.