Mental health in the workplace is a growing problem, with anxiety, stress and other illnesses impacting productivity and leading to employees burning out – and that’s only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
However, there is a still a stigma associated with talking to employers about mental health issues at work. There is a fear of repercussions and even with the utmost reassurance, a niggling feeling that it still might affect future opportunities. In fact, an alarming 30% of employees felt that they couldn’t talk openly to their line manager if they were feeling stressed and 45% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress affected them.
As employers are looking into ways to invest into staff’s mental health and provide the right level of support and intervention, what can employees do to seek help and not suffer in silence? Here are my tips on how every individual can ask for mental health support regardless of their comfort level, with the confidence that there isn’t a trade-off between getting help and advancing their career:
- Check the resources available to you
There is an increasing awareness around employee mental health and wellbeing, so the first thing to do is check if your company already has any resources available to you. Spend some time exploring what is on offer, and try some out, even if you think it is not for you. You never know what might work. And if you have heard about something that isn’t on offer, talk to your colleagues about it and approach your manager as a collective to set up a trial.
- HR is your friend
Your HR department should be your support network. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your manager, have a conversation with HR first. They should keep this confidential and give you advice on how best to approach your mental health at work. You shouldn’t feel that you have to take annual leave or holiday for mental health days or be at work and not be performing at your best. Your company has a responsibility to support you if you are struggling.
- Working from home makes it harder
Working from home has removed some of the usual ways in which we can talk about our mental health with colleagues or managers. This means that we have to make more of an effort to focus on our mental health, which can feel challenging. However, it is important to still talk to colleagues, family and friends if you are feeling stressed, anxious or unwell. Balancing work and home life when working remotely can be overwhelming but you need to remember that just because you are not interacting with people physically, it doesn’t mean you can’t open up and discuss your mental health.
- Find confidential resources
If you are not ready to go to your employer about any mental health issues you are having, it is still important to take active steps to deal with it. There is an array of digital tools and resources available now and can really help you cope. Remember to look for personalised, effective and evidence-based tools where possible, as mental health is an individual journey during which you can find the right treatment that works just for you. If you don’t fancy a tech solution, then don’t forget to keep doing the things that help clear the mind – exercising, going for a walk, watching your favourite TV shows, cooking – time away from your computer and desk needs to be meaningful and regular to ensure you are not “always on”, which can quickly lead to burn out.
- Be part of the change you want to see
If you feel that your employer isn’t doing enough to support mental health at work, then why not do something about it? We place the emphasis on employers to provide services, but I think each of us can make the case for mental health support even if we don’t feel stressed. It could help a colleague who is too afraid to speak out and get them the help they need. Breaking stigmas takes time and bravery but is a much worthy cause.