Mental health and wellbeing initiatives are transitioning from ‘nice-to-haves’ to mainstream strategic concerns for business leaders and chief executives. As the leading cause of disability in the UK, one in seven people suffer from mental ill-health in the workplace.
Excessive pressure, long hours, unsustainable workloads, job insecurity and a lack of support from managers can all contribute to workplace stress. Stress at work may also trigger or worsen existing mental health problems, making it harder to separate one from the other.
Workplaces designed with support and without stigma could help the millions of people suffering, including those indirectly impacted, such as families, colleagues, and employers.
Houston has signed the Mindful Business Charter to address avoidable stresses in working practices and to promote healthier and more effective ways of working. The Charter, originally launched by Barclays and law firms Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard in October 2018, brings organisations and their service providers together to reach a shared agenda for mental health and wellbeing.
Amid all the upheaval and change brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Mindful Business Charter continues to provide organisations and individuals with the framework, permission, and challenge to dare to be different and to work together across the business community to rehumanise the workplace.
The Houston team share how they are implementing the framework to foster a culture that’s both thoughtful and mindful:
Get talking: Sharing experiences of mental health challenges in the workplace matters
Businesses need to encourage the workforce to talk about work-related stress in a bid to break down traditional taboos surrounding the topic.
“The mental health debate is advancing, but more senior figures need to ‘come out’ and talk about their experiences to open the door for others and to help them feel they are not alone.
We are stronger together than apart, and statistically, I know I will not be alone in suffering poor mental health at some point,” says Alexander Clelland, Director.
Educate and inform your workforce
Meaningful action is needed to help workers struggling with stress and their mental health. Line managers also need support to manage these situations effectively and sensitively.
“We have made sure that everyone has had mental health training so that they are aware of the signs of declining mental health in themselves and others. People at all levels need to feel able to flag when they are suffering from poor mental health and have the right to ask for help. Understanding of mental health is still poor in comparison to physical health and despite the best efforts of many organisations, there is still undue stigma attached,” adds Alexander.
Lead by example
Work-life balance is essential to help reduce stress and prevent burnout in the workplace. Leaders need to monitor workloads and staff up when employees are constantly overburdened. Late nights and excessive hours should be an exception, not the norm, and managers need to adopt this philosophy so that their direct reports do too.
“There seems to be an unwritten obligation for PR professionals to always be ‘on’. We often get home, check emails, and work on documents for unofficial working evenings and weekends. It’s important to be able to switch off to manage stress. Managers and office superiors have a duty to lead by example, set realistic expectations, support their teams, and encourage a culture that inspires a positive work-life balance. We offer flexible working hours to help our team manage their personal commitments and the demands of the profession,” says Laura Stewart, Account Director.
Signpost the appropriate support
Seeking help is often the first step towards getting well, but not all employees know where or who to turn to. Businesses can signpost and provide assistance programmes for employees in need of support.
“Employees need to know where to go for help and feel comfortable asking for it. We offer an Employee Assistance Programme to provide our team with a 24/7 telephone service for support with any of life’s issues, including counselling sessions and content on a range of wellbeing topics,” comments Carolyn Long, Head of HR & Operations.
Consider the relationship between mental and physical health
Research has found that almost a third of people with a long-term physical health condition also suffer from mental ill health. Physical health problems have been shown to significantly increase the risk of poor mental health, and vice versa.
“The more stressed we are, the harder it can be to look after ourselves. And the less we look after ourselves, the more stressed we feel. We offer various benefits focussed on physical health including a programme that gives employees 24/7 access to a virtual GP, as well as perks to help keep people active, from support with gym memberships to a cycle to work scheme,” adds Carolyn.
Nationwide change will not happen overnight, but businesses can help steer how mental health is viewed and managed at work. For more information and advice, visit https://www.mindfulbusinesscharter.com/