In case you missed it, World Mental Health Day was a couple of weeks ago and we saw friends, family, celebrities, and various organisations post their support on social media platforms, but how many actively encourage good mental health practices?
I see companies going through ‘tick box’ exercises by training mental health first aiders who are supported by limited Employee Assistance Programmes, but little in the way of genuine help. With our National Health Service in crisis, and waiting lists longer than they have ever been, the mental health of our nation is suffering and at a time when it needs help the most.
Redundancies, furlough, and working from home have all added to the stresses we feel every day, with some feeling extra pressure to work longer hours with no added financial compensation, in the hope of job security. However, there have been some wonderful examples from large companies highlighted in the press. For example, Bumble, LinkedIn and Nike gave all employees a paid week off, and Microsoft gave extra paid leave, but I do wonder how many of their employees actually used this, due to the stigma that still exists around mental health.
I am the first to admit that I struggle to maintain a healthy work/life balance, and I have been especially poor at this whilst working from home. My mental health has definitely been affected as a result. However, I encourage others, whether employees, colleagues or friends, to take time off and speak up when they need it because I know the effect it can have. It’s easy for me to judge and be critical, as being the owner of a small company, I know each member of staff personally and try to keep up to date with their lives. During the lockdowns, a couple of employees struggled with the isolation, so we started meeting for walks and this is something I hope to continue and expand upon to support their mental health. I think more employers need to reach out and encourage open conversations, both in the office and online, perhaps using trained counsellors.
I’m lucky as I have a team of counsellors on-call as one of the services we offer, so I’m in a unique position. However, I do need to learn to lead by example and help fight the stigma surrounding mental health.