A helping hand: How you can support this mental health awareness week

During this Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), we spoke to industry experts on how best to support employees and cultivate a culture of caring

An alarming 6.8 people suffer from mental health problems in the workplace and that number is still growing. The last two years have taken a tremendous toll on both employers and employees who have had to cope with remote working, staff shortages and monumental work life changes. Raising awareness of what support is out there has never been more important.

During this mental health awareness week, we spoke to nine business leaders to see how they are managing this crisis and to get their advice on building a culture of care.

Create a safe space

Starting from scratch and making sure your workplace is an open environment where people feel comfortable sharing is key.

Kathryn Barnes, Employment Counsel EMEA at Globalization Partners, said: “Employers should create opportunities for open dialogue, allowing workers to speak openly about their concerns or challenges without fear of retaliation, and a more person-centric approach to engagement with pursuing health and well-being -being their workforce. In doing so, they have to rethink the way they deal with people and support them in redefining the boundaries between living and working.”

In the meantime, Fluent Commerce creates a safe space in the workforce that encourages transparency and sharing. “Weekly question-and-answer sessions allow our team to address work-related issues that they are concerned about,” said Rob Shaw, SVP Global Sales at Fluent Commerce. “Cultivating a culture of caring requires open discussions with politicians to support this.”

Education is key

Training is also a valuable tool in equipping the workforce with the right skills to better understand the complexities of mental health.

Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal added: “An important first step should be providing line managers with training to help them identify the potential causes and signs of stress and to manage the workload effectively to ensure that the employees are not overwhelmed. Connecting with employees is an easy way to relieve feelings of isolation or pent-up worries. Stress management training that provides all employees with the tools and techniques they need to manage stress will also be beneficial as the workplace advances.”

Observing what other organizations are doing for the wellbeing of their employees can be incredibly helpful as inspiration for what can be implemented in your own workplace.

“In early 2019, we trained a number of our employees to become mental health first responders, who are now volunteering to take on the additional role of supporting our team members in times of need and directing them to appropriate resources,” said Simon Crawley-Trice, CEO of Six Degree. “They also run several initiatives across the company for our employees and their line managers; Raising awareness of the effects stress can have on an individual, providing tools to support stress management, and guiding leaders to successfully reduce stress in their teams.”

Flexible working and work-life balance

Wellbeing is not just about workplace initiatives, it also relates to the structure of work itself. Now more than ever, flexible working is needed to enable workers to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Jen Lawrence, CPO at Tax Systems, said, “Flexible working is deeply embedded in Tax Systems’ culture. It’s one thing to say you offer it as an organization, but it’s quite another when you know that people are actually using it – that they’re going to their afternoon gym class or having late lunch with friends; afternoon walk the dog or the school run – whatever it is, our vibrant approach to work is there for everyone, no matter the reason. We all have lives and we all experience moments of stress, so making time for the little things often makes a big difference. By trusting our team and showing understanding and empathy, we have employees who are happy, motivated and engaged.”

Gillian Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile, agreed: “Companies can improve the quality of life for their employees both inside and outside of work by implementing hybrid or flexible work policies. data from the Census 2021 revealed that 85% of employees currently working from home want a hybrid approach in the future, where they can work from home as well as in the office. The results also showed that “improved employee well-being” was the top reason for companies looking to make remote work an integral part of their corporate policies.”

Mental health in cybersecurity

It goes without saying that every job, no matter the industry, comes with different stresses and strains.

“Obviously, the lightning fast pace of cybersecurity creates a high-stress environment,” said Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam. “For some, this is part of the appeal of the industry, the intensity can foster a sense of excitement, adrenaline and constant change. However, there’s a fine line between “good” stress and “bad” stress that leads to burnout — and it’s not always easy to tell when you’ve transitioned from one to the other.”

“To describe the events of the last two years as stressful is an understatement,” added Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK. “People in many professions have navigated unforeseen and difficult circumstances, which has inevitably taken its toll. These include those in the IT industry who have experienced constant change; with the pressure to enable and support hybrid and remote work and keep businesses running no matter what. It’s no surprise that finding time for mental health has too often slipped down the priority list.”

For these reasons alone, organizations need to move forward and look through a more empathetic and caring lens. Change is certainly overdue, but that doesn’t mean a major overhaul has to happen overnight.

Dave Birchall, Chief People Officer at Node4, summarizes: “Small actions can make a big difference. Whether it’s a regular coffee morning for people to mingle and share, encouraging employees to take regular breaks, or more structured support e.g. by providing tips and techniques on how to cope with stress, or access to professional support services.”

Click below to share this article

Comments are closed.