Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Mental health isn’t a personal problem. It’s a company problem.

These articles have been written by the latest cohort of the Practice Makes UnPerfect programme – a course that helps women find and finesse their public voices.

By Esra Gurkan, Senior Marketing Manager at The Fifth

Approaching your manager about a mental health issue can be far more daunting than for something physical; it’s easier to complain of a bad back than a bruised psyche. Scared of being labelled a ‘snowflake’, people often put off talking about mental health until the problem’s out of control.

Workplaces in 2022, however, are having to deal with an evolved workforce now. The Great Resignation has seen employees quitting their jobs in droves, with almost a quarter of workers actively planning to change employers. 

They want more freedom, flexibility and recognition. 

Employees are also being more honest about when they’re struggling.

Parents have had to tackle the pandemic whilst homeschooling, and single people have found it harder to seek comfort from friends and family. Others have been made redundant or have started new jobs remotely. 

It’s been difficult for all of us no matter our situation and workplaces will notice that their employees are a little… different. 

With research from HR and learning experts MHR revealing that 47% of employees believe that disclosing mental health issues to their employers would negatively impact their career, it’s a problem that needs to be solved. The survey, shared with Metro.co.uk, also found that almost half of Brits would feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health with a boss or member of HR.

We’re burned and bruised and a bit on edge about how to face life being somewhat normal again and with that comes a confusing mindset. What workplaces can do, however, is tackle this problem head on and with openness, communication and compassion. 

It sounds simple, and it can be.

When an employee comes to you with a mental health problem, it can be easy to panic and send them straight to HR who will alert them of the latest workplace infrastructure they can access. It means you often end up having to explain your situation to somebody that you’ve never met before – and that can be terrifying. 

Instead, managers should be able to deal with a lot of mental health cases themselves. HR can be notified discreetly but mental health won’t feel as big or as daunting a topic to approach when tackled on a more human level. 

When I needed to access cognitive behavioural therapy, I asked my manager for permission to attend an appointment every Monday. Though I offered to make up the time, they said that it wasn’t necessary and I was simply told to attend these appointments for as long as I needed to until I was better, and to let them know if I needed more support. 

The process was simple: I had an honest one-to-one with my manager, attended my appointments for 6 months and got to a better place with no fuss. This simplicity and ease made me incredibly loyal to my company. 

inews.co.uk found that 39 per cent of employees aged between 18 and 29 were most likely to leave their job and move to an employer that provides better mental health support. 

Investing in, trusting and looking after employees means then that not only will they stay longer – they’ll also work harder. Respect breeds respect and workplaces should do more to ensure their employees are looked after. In return, they will stay longer and be able to work better.

Going forward, workplaces should approach mental health differently and with more flexibility. Companies will be better off in the long run, and the people-problem might be one step closer to being solved. Put simply: look after the staff you have. Struggling with mental health might mean employees are able to work but can’t really work. They’re present at their desks, but their minds aren’t really there.

Focus on allowing employees to get their mojo back. Don’t make such a big deal out of it; sometimes we just need the support of a colleague and the trust to be able to deal with it ourselves. 

What would I have done differently? Next time, I wouldn’t have asked for permission. Instead, I’d have told them this was just something that had to be done.

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