In a post-pandemic world, work and home life have become more intertwined than ever before, with hybrid working now the new normal. While working from home has its benefits, it can also at times lead to feelings of disconnectedness between employees and a company’s broader purpose or mission. It has also led to a rise of ‘e-presenteeism’, as workers feel unable to switch off.
As we mark Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme of ‘loneliness’, we look at what employers can do to better support employees’ mental health and create a working environment that encourages a sense of purpose and connectedness.
Letting them know the support is there
Mental health and its importance in the workplace has become an increasingly prevalent issue in recent years, with work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounting for 50% of all work-related ill health in the UK in 2020-21. Put simply, if colleagues do not feel supported in their mental health, they are not able to perform to the best of their abilities, hindering a business’ ability to unlock its full potential. Furthermore, colleagues that have positive mental health contribute to a positive working culture, making a company a desirable and enjoyable place to work.
There are many initiatives and actions that organisations can adopt to ensure colleagues feel that there is support if they need it. At Perrett Laver this comes in many forms - from our Vitality Healthcare plan which offers access to counselling services, training from the mental health charity Mind for line managers, a subscription to the meditation and relaxation app Calm, access to Mental Health First Aid trained staff - to smaller but important offerings such as a weekly fruit delivery.
Ultimately, however, destigmatising mental health and empowering colleagues to speak up and get the help they need is the most important thing an organisation can do. This can be achieved by promoting an open culture of transparency and trust, whereby individuals feel able to speak to honestly and openly with someone in their network about their mental health and ask for support.
Keeping connected in a hybrid workplace
As demand for hybrid work options increases, it is important that businesses are agile and adapt how colleagues can be supported in different ways. This might include moving facilities and resources online so that they are accessible for all or allowing flexible working hours to encourage employees to make the most of their leisure time.
There are many aspects of working at home that support mental health. This includes enjoying more time with family and allowing more flexibility for people that have responsibilities at home, such as parents or carers. However, there are also aspects that can be detrimental, as presenteeism prevents people from ‘switching off’ or stepping away from their work, consequently putting pressure on their mental health.
It is vital that businesses create an environment where employees feel that they belong, that their opinions are valued and that they are part of a broader purpose. If colleagues do not feel connected to others in a virtual setting, it is easy to lose that sense of purpose and motivation, and question why they are doing the work they are doing.
It’s also important that conversations are not always about business. Informal chats with colleagues are often under-valued but are a great way to keep co-workers connected on a more personal level.
A diverse and inclusive workplace encourages good mental wellbeing
Organisations are starting to embed mental health policies into how they describe their working culture and vision. All organisations that Perrett Laver works with are purpose-driven, but there is a new emphasis being placed on ensuring that the employees of those organisations are also directly feeling and benefiting from that purpose.
More specifically, we have seen a greater emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion within organisations. If an organisation is not driving an inclusive culture, individuals can feel excluded, with their mental health suffering as a consequence. If an organisation does not seem as though it is recognising them or allowing them to bring their whole selves to work, it can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation.
Mirroring personal wellbeing in your working life
Physical wellbeing has a direct knock-on effect on mental health. With the pandemic heightening people’s awareness of their physical wellbeing more than ever, organisations must give people the time they need to look after themselves physically which will have a positive ripple effect on their mental health.
Further to physical wellbeing, the pandemic spotlighted nervousness around finances as the economy was brought to a standstill. We have organised financial education training for Perrett Laver employees at different stages of their career, to give financial resilience and wellbeing the attention it deserves as a marker of an individual’s mental health.
The world has been through a number of monumental shifts in the last few years which has resulted in people being more compassionate to one another. Whilst there were silver linings, inequalities have become more transparent and lockdowns have triggered feelings of isolation, taking its toll on individuals’ mental health.
Ultimately, it’s crucial to ensure that employees know support is available and how they can access it. Importantly, a professional environment where people feel celebrated and represented results in a happier, more connected workplace.