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Why it is important to consider mental health in the workplace

Mental health has always been part of everyday life, but it used to be a taboo subject. Something that no one wanted to talk about. But now, it is a subject that is breaking out of the shadows and being discussed openly throughout society, the media, and in all walks of life. Particularly in light of the many recent high profile suicides in the last year.

New Zealanders have questions, we are hungry for knowledge on the subject, and we are demanding support for such an important issue.

Did you know that nearly half of New Zealanders will suffer from symptoms of mental illness at some point in their lives? So, if you haven’t been through it yourself, you will know many people that have.

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week runs from October the 8th to the 14th. It is a great reminder for organisations, businesses, employers and managers about the importance of promoting and supporting wellbeing in the workplace throughout the year.

Let’s look into this important topic in more detail.

Why Employers Should Care About Mental Health

As an employer, you have legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to manage risks to mental health and wellbeing. Aside from these requirements, clearly, creating an open, healthy work environment should be a top priority. It makes sense that fulfilled, supported staff will be more motivated, productive and engaged.

You can supercharge that productivity by providing workplace wellbeing programmes for your team. They can help reduce sick leave, decrease staff turnover, minimise accidents and injuries, prevent workplace conflict and increase revenue. A healthy team makes for a healthy business.

If you are interested in knowing more about how you could advocate for wellbeing at your workplace then have a look at what we offer at Wellbeing Workshop We are all about creating a healthy and supportive environment that your team will want to return to every day.

How Employers Can Create A Safe Space

Every team member has a responsibility to create a positive space, but those in management positions should be leading by example. Leaders have a responsibility to establish a culture of understanding, compassion and support within an organisation.

Here are some ways to start.

  • Ensure there is a zero-tolerance policy for workplace bullying and harassment.

  • Provide training to managers giving them the tools to support staff with any mental health issues.

  • Stay in touch with your team. Ensure you - or the in-line manager - regularly catch up with each individual team member and let them know that you are always available and open to talk in confidence.

  • Talk openly about your desire to have a mentally healthy workspace and ask for team feedback on how to achieve this.

How Do I Know If One Of My Team Needs Support?

Although times are changing, there is still a stigma attached to mental health. Employees may be hesitant about asking for support - afraid it will change the way people see them, or affect their job.

Every person handles mental health problems differently. Some may be open about their issues while others struggle through and attempt to keep them hidden.

An employer or manager who is in touch with their team may be able to pick up on more subtle signs that someone needs extra support.

Perhaps there is a drop in their performance - even if it is subtle. Maybe they appear tired, short-tempered or unmotivated. Some people tend to become withdrawn, avoiding colleagues and social interaction, while others may try to become extra busy.

There is no one way to tell, so we recommend working on creating that positive, supportive environment where employees feel it is okay to open up about any issues.

How Can I Help My Employees?

Value your people and approach mental health the same way you do physical health.

If someone is struggling, find a way to support them at work. This may involve re-designing their job, providing flexible work hours, adjusting their workload or addressing any negative situations within the workplace.

Along with this, try to create a work environment where your employees feel a sense of purpose and direction, provide recognition and reward. Give people the chance to learn, develop and grow, and ensure there is a sense of buy-in and control over their work.

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