Mental Health And Work: How and Why To Change

Amy Cowpe

December 20, 2020

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2020 has been a tough year for mental health, whether it relates to work or not. New research shows thousands of employees feel work negatively impacts their lives, which shouldn't be the case. There's a tangible way business leaders can and should tackle the issue - it's proven successful and is free to all.

In 2020, we all understand that work and life have serious overlap. You do not leave your mental health �"at the door” when you arrive at work, and what happens in the office always comes home with you. Everyone working in Operations or HR roles at a small company understands better than ever that they have a responsibility to support their team's mental health.

However, despite the widely recognized importance and impact of mental health, there's a wide-spanning lack of support within businesses for employees struggling with this issue.

In Charlie's 2020 employee engagement and happiness survey of over 7,000 employees in over 250 businesses, 80% of respondents said they felt work negatively impacted their lives. A further 87% said that they were unable to manage a healthy work-life balance.

Mental health can sometimes seem like an intangible topic to try and improve. It can be viewed as a very individualistic struggle, near impossible to codify and therefore handle as a business.

This needs to change. While the changing realities of the world around us are outside the control of individuals, the policies within a company are not. Our mental health policy trial at CharlieHR showed a positive impact on our team's wellbeing over time.

By putting into policy what support is available to individuals - whether it be an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), access to subsidized therapy, flexible working policies or mental health sick days we've made good progress. The best approach we've found to helping everyone in our team manage their mental health is making clear that we support them through thick and thin and crucially, that we trust them to take care of themselves.

Our policy has given our team ownership and the ability to better manage their mental health. No two people are the same, so a stringent and an overly uniform approach has less impact than a clear and flexible approach.

In the eight months since we've put our mental health policy into practice, 100% of our team felt that seeing others make use of mental health sick days has decreased the stigma. 87% said that using these sick days enabled them to manage their mental health and return to work with greater clarity and productivity.

At the time of the conclusion of the employee engagement survey, 52% of companies reportedly had no mental health policy or strategies in place. I'd encourage any company willing to take a step to invest in the wellbeing of their employees. This can be as simple as putting in place a mental health policy. We've even made our own mental health policy free to download and use for all small businesses out there.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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