In the UK, mental health problems are the second biggest cause of absences from work. Combined with employee turnover resulting from mental illness, this costs companies £2.4 billion each year in lost productivity.
So what is PR industry doing about it?
We have noticed that more companies are taking notice of the mental and emotional strain of work. Findings from our recent Annual Salary Guide support this, in both in-house corporate communications teams and PR agencies. 49% of in-house corporate comms professionals receive private health insurance, 23% benefit from a gym membership or discount, and 7% have access to a company mental health and wellbeing programme. It’s a similar picture in the agencies, with 23% receiving private health insurance, 23% a gym membership or discount, and 8% having the option to benefit from a mental health and wellbeing programme.
This emerging focus on mental health is a smart move. Workplaces often focus on physical aspects (conditions like heart disease and diabetes for example), but now they’re also recognising that emotional health plays a significant role in chronic health conditions as well. Mental illness and burnout have major implications for businesses. The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety disorders account for around $1 trillion in global productivity losses per year.
Unfortunately, social stigma around these issues can make it extremely challenging for people to seek help when they need it the most—especially in the workplace. But it is clear that companies are now trying to change the conversation around mental health. With benefits such as workplace wellness programmes becoming part of employees’ packages, these initiatives can help promote a healthier, happier culture where employees feel safe asking for help. In turn, this can boost productivity, reduce absenteeism, and potentially save lives.
If your company is not yet on board with mental health initiatives, here are a few ways you can make it more of a priority:
1. Give your team flexibility
If you want to invest in mental health in your workplace but aren’t sure where to start, one option is to let employees choose. You could offer a
monthly stipend to put towards whatever wellness-related expenses they wish. It gives employees the option to use it for a different purpose each month –
therapy appointments, massages, meditation apps, yoga workshops and so forth.
2. Make it easier to get help
Opening a workplace dialogue and teaching coping strategies can go a long way in aiding employees’ mental health, but sometimes people need professional
treatment. While most health insurance plans cover at least some mental health care, not every company offers health insurance. In the first instance, you should encourage your employees to get help from their GP and find out what resources are available to them in their local area. Make sure they have the time to go to these appointments.
3. Open your eyes to your working culture
Be more accountable about your working culture and what kind of message you are putting out to your employees. There is a balance about what is expected –
it’s simply not realistic for any employee to be ‘on call’ all the time. PR agencies can keep a tight rein on workloads across teams of employees and encourage employees to speak up if they feel overwhelmed.
4. Train on the basics
As an experienced manager, I have noticed that many people don’t know how to manage their workload effectively, and it can take some time to perfect the art. Stay open to getting in a trainer to support comms professionals with how to prioritise workloads effectively and understanding the difference in what is urgent/important/not urgent/not important.
5. Go slow!
Mental health has been a taboo subject at work for a very long time, so any initiative may take time to become a comfortable part of the culture. It’s important not to rush things—no one wants to feel ambushed when it comes to their mental health.
Be patient, experiment to see what works for your company, and make sure that employees feel safe and supported at every turn. Your efforts will pay off in the long run—in the form of greater productivity, fewer absences, and healthier, happier employees.
If you would like to talk to us about implementing mental health initiatives into your business, we would love to help. Call us on 0207 9203 9290 or email email@example.com.