Manage anxiety and stress
From my experience working as a mental health nurse, I am aware that just about anyone can suffer from common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Most people experience stressful and traumatic situations at some time during their lives. Manage anxiety and stress is the key to workplace well-being. Evidence shows that people who are emotionally resilient are more likely to cope with these events and to not get as stressed, anxious or depressed as those who have not developed this skill. There are several strategies to help people within your organisation to develop stronger emotional resilience:
- Achieving a better home/work life balance
- Maintaining social networks
- Being more assertive
- Having a greater sense of purpose
Broadly speaking, the benefits of developing stronger emotional resilience relate to the subject’s ability to deal with stressful situations – both everyday issues and rarer major crises. On a more practical level, the traits associated with emotionally-resilient people include:
- Emotional awareness
- Internal locus of control
- Sense of humour
Mental ill health is a cost to the economy, with close to £30 billion lost each year by UK employers due to sickness absence, reduced productivity and staff turnover. Employers also lose an average of 90 million days per year due to employees experiencing mental health problems. Improving the management of mental health would lead to a sizeable proportion of these costs being saved. One such measure would be to implement Individual Placement and Support (IPS) effectively, which could be achieved within existing provision by diverting resources as necessary.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) is working alongside the NHS’s Mindful Employer initiative to help employers change their approach to mental health by focusing on the practical things they can do to help. Tackling the stigma around mental health is of considerable importance – because if people are not talking about it, then it is more difficult to foster a culture of listening, a crucial element in finding meaningful solutions. The positive results to employers of a supportive and empathetic working environment include:
- Fewer confrontations
- Improved multitasking ability
- Higher concentration levels
- Increased work speeds
- More patience with customers/clients
The Advisory booklet – Promoting positive mental health at work offers further advice to employers about how to help in this regard.
The causes of mental ill health are often interrelated and complicated. There are no simple solutions. Drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, childhood abuse, and conditions such as bipolar disorder, dementia and psychosis can all contribute to a deterioration in mental health. The medical administration of drugs may be an appropriate treatment for some mental health conditions, particularly in the short term; however, long-term solutions require actions to be taken by the person involved. Recovery is for those who want it, not those who need it. The role and responsibility of employers, therefore, is to provide a supportive environment and culture of openness that enable employees’ recovery to become more likely.
The most useful recommendation for managing mental health at work would be to encourage employees to seek medical advice from a GP. Other important ways of showing that you care for your employees are to monitor workloads, employee involvement, the physical environment and workplace culture, and to provide professional counselling support and advice. All these measures have the additional benefit of improving the self-esteem of individuals. Organisations that show they value their employees’ mental health are generally more productive and operate more effectively.
There are many great charities working tirelessly all year round to provide support for those affected by mental illness. Seeking their advice – Mind, Mental Health Foundation, Samaritans and Papyrus – is a good first step. The government is also allocating significant resource to tackle the problem of mental ill health via the NHS – you can learn about their approach in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health report.
Now that the subject is positioned firmly within the public domain, there is no shortage of assistance for you, your organisation and the wider economy. Take advantage of the many books, websites, reports and tutorials available, so that you, too, are able to support employees.