It’s a topic that most will avoid, especially in the context of work however, there is a reason mental health or more accurately, mental ill health is increasingly the subject of advertising campaigns, literature, and medical conferences the world over. According to the WHO, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. In Ireland, the HSE has identified that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will seek treatment for depression at some point and, in the UK more than 21% of people surveyed had called in sick to avoid work due to feelings of stress. With over 32 million people employed in the UK and Ireland, these numbers reflect a staggering portion of the workforce.
Similarly, the economic cost of work-related stress and anxiety is a common theme in business media. Pick up a copy of any business or HR publication and it’s hard not to read about the cost of our busy work lives and the need for employee wellbeing programmes. There is a need, employee mental and physical health should be top of the priority list for HR professionals.
There are an increasing number of technologies available to support/improve the mental and physical health of employees. Everything from recognition software, to movement trackers all have measurable impact and are supported by ample research and literature. No doubt this is a key contributing factor to the rapid growth of the employee wellbeing industry. It’s reassuring to think that employers are acting in a responsible way towards the health and wellbeing of their employees. However, when we consider that 59 per cent of employees surveyed in the Republic of Ireland felt uncomfortable talking to their manager about their mental health and 14 per cent in the UK had resigned as a result of workplace stress, how effective can these programs really be?
Although mental health problems are generally treatable, the global stigma associated with depression and anxiety significantly reduces the likelihood of patients seeking help, and therefore receiving treatment. Findings from a UK ‘Time to Change’ survey showed that over 40 per cent of employees find it hard to talk to or open-up about their mental health to anyone. The research also showed that 32 per cent of employees felt they were ‘treated differently’ by their line manager (after returning to work) following absence related to mental ill health. Even more concerning, 20 per cent of survey participants also felt their fellow colleagues’ attitudes towards them had changed!
It’s admirable to see corporate trail blazers implementing employee wellbeing programs and HR hero’s raising awareness of mental health in the workplace, but this progressive attitude isn’t seen on every corner of the high street. It’s most often “Great Place to Work” winners such as Propellernet in the UK or Global Enterprises like Google who will take progressive steps, allocate sufficient budget, and often appoint a dedicated employee engagement specialist, to ensure the success of programs. Most businesses however either don’t have the budget to allocate or (much worse), don’t believe allocating the budget will improve their bottom-line.
No matter the size of your company or how progressive the corporate culture, there are certain steps every HR team can take to raise awareness of metal health in work and reduce the stigma.
1. Mental health training for managers: Just like having people certified in first aid it is equally important to educate managers about mental health. Training suitable people to notice the signals or symptoms that someone may demonstrate if they are going through a tough time can make all the difference to aiding recovery. Equally important is teaching team leaders/managers how to deal with issues as they arise and how to respond in a crisis. Get an expert in for a training day so people can ask questions.
2. Educate your employees: A reoccurring theme I have found is that employees don’t know the “protocol” in work if they do experience a mental health problem. Make sure your team know who they can turn to, if you have an EAP, encourage the use of this service. Often managers worry that if employees are using the company EAP it’s a bad thing when in-fact it’s very positive. It means your staff know where to turn in time of personal crisis!
3. Support a mental health charity: There are countless charities out there doing great work to raise awareness of mental health problems, offering bereavement counselling to families of suicide victims, educating youths – the list goes on and on. Choose one to support this year and get the company involved in at least two fundraising activities. You can participate in an event as a team, like the Darkness into Light run, collect on behalf of your charity around your local town or plan your own event. Whatever it is, use the occasions as an opportunity to work with the charity and talk about mental health.
4. Get on board with World Mental Health week: WMHW is great opportunity to talk about mental health in the workplace. Choose a different topic every day; ‘eating for a happy mind’ or “mindfulness masterclass”. Whatever it is, encourage your team to talk openly and ask questions. If you have the budget, invite a guest speak. Celebrity advocates or medical professionals such as Dr Ian Gargan are a great way to create some hype.
5. Technology as an intervention – eHealth is a growing industry and its application in mental health education is gaining great momentum. Create a directory to help your employees access information more easily. Include any apps your company provide – POWR or Sleepio, and a list of useful websites and resources. If you’re not currently offering an employee wellbeing app then try to include consumer apps which are free of charge.
Reducing stigma is about educating people and creating an environment of disclosure. There are countless tools and services you can offer to support mental health in work and at home, but the most important thing is to get people talking. So, whether you invest in; a mental health app, workshops, or host a fundraising event, always create as much buzz as possible to keep people talking long after the fact.
Author: Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager, Wrkit
Increasingly we are hearing the phrase “employee engagement” in our dialogues with clients, but often the term lacks a clear definition. If an organisation is looking to improve employee engagement is that the same as increasing employee happiness? Or is it more like employee satisfaction? In reality employee engagement goes much deeper than simply being satisfied with a job, or happy in a workplace.
Forbes contributor Kevin Kruse considers employee engagement as; the emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals. While Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work, and who contribute to their organisation in a positive manner”.
Understandably we see employers focus on the already engaged members of their team – these are star performers and keeping them as such is a top priority. However let’s consider those who are not engaged, or worse, are actively disengaged? An employee who turns up, works without passion, but is satisfied just doing their day-to-day is volatile and can be easily swayed by the organisations actions or by the actions of their peers.
While they teeter between engagement and active disengagement, non-engaged employees usually don’t pose a toxic threat within their work environment. The real danger lies with those who are actively disengaged – unhappy at work and spreading their unhappiness among colleagues. Gallup estimates that in the U.S. active disengagement costs $450 billion to $550 billion per year. While in the United Kingdom actively disengaged employees cost the country between £52 billion and £70 billion per year.
With disengaged employees out numbering engaged employees 2-to-1, it’s important to know the signs and intervene early.
Six Warning Signs
1. Slipping Standards – If deadlines are being missed and punctuality isn’t what it previously was, then it’s likely you’re dealing someone who has checked-out. Small changes in day-to-day commitment are a first indicator.
2. Excessive Complaining – Every employee has the right to complain and having an opinion is an important aspect of engagement. But beware of team members who complain constantly and about trivial matters.
3. Making Excuses – If an employee is frequently making excuses for their actions and shunning responsibility they probably don’t have the organisations goals at heart.
4. Lacking Enthusiasm – When a new project doesn’t ignite the enthusiasm you expect in an employee it will often be down to lack of engagement.
5. Independent and unhelpful – Disengaged employees don’t want to help others, and will develop a “that’s not my job” attitude trying to work independently rather than as part of a team.
6. Not Asking Questions – An employee who isn’t asking questions and striving for personal growth within the company is not looking at the organisation as a long-term employer.
63% of employees fall between engagement and active disengagement, so what steps can you take to re-engage and inspire employees who have switched to auto pilot? The most important thing is having open and honest communication with your team. If an employee is dissatisfied and losing interest it’s important to talk honestly about how they feel and identify the cause. It is important that employees are happy speaking to management about their concerns rather than turning to disengaged peers.
Recognising and rewarding employee contribution is one of the most effective ways to re-engage employees. Feeling appreciated is a basic human need that increases satisfaction and motivation. Implementing a recognition program will have a real impact as recognition promotes positivity, and positivity spreads.
It might seem obvious but making it easy for employees to do their jobs should be a top priority. We’ve all been in a position where we had to do something for work but haven’t had the most suitable tool to do it – it’s frustrating for employees. Whether it’s software, hardware or making sure basic ergonomics are correct, employees should be provided with the necessary tools to work at their best.
One final and very important step is to encourage your team to learn and develop. If you want your employees to have an interest and emotional commitment to your organisation, it needs to work both ways. If an employee wants to take a course to improve their skill set, support that decision. Similarly, if you have a sports or arts enthusiast on your hands then encourage that interest.
Speak to our team today to find out how Wrkit can help build a recognition rich culture in your organisation – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Peter Jenkinson, Business Development Director
Associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, sleep deprivation is an underestimated drain on businesses and economies. Adversely affecting performance at school and in the labour market, higher mortality risks and reduced productivity. Back in 2011, Science Daily published findings from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimating insomnia to be costing the average U.S. worker 11.3 days, or $2,280 in lost productivity every year. Harvard Business Review also published findings from a Sanofi-Aventis survey which estimated that lost productivity due to poor sleep costs $3,156 per employee with insomnia, and averaged $2,500 for those with less severe sleep problems.
This trend has shown no sign of improving. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention US (CDC) declared insufficient sleep a ‘public health problem’ in 2016. Currently more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
Recent research from Rand Europe which used economic modelling of data from five OECD countries found that individuals who sleep fewer than six hours a night have a 13 per cent higher mortality risk than people who sleep at least seven hours. Findings from the research point towards sleep deprivation as a deteriorating global economic problem, currently costing developed world economies $680bn a year.
The economic cost of poor sleep is making employers ‘wake-up’ and take notice. Until now, the sleep quality of an employee was something of a personal matter. As the lines between work and life continue to blur, employers are recognising sleep as a key influencer on performance but what about the health cost? Over time, regular sleep deprivation can result in chronic illness. According to the NHS website, lack of sleep can affect a person’s:
- Immune system
- Mental wellbeing
- Susceptibility to type two diabetes
- Blood pressure and heart disease
Not to mention the increased chance of accidental death. This all adds up to a lot of bad news for individuals who live a sleep deprived life and those organisations who employ them.
So, what’s causing the problem and how can employers tackle it? A combination of things including changing work life balance, increased stress and anxiety, personal lifestyle choices and societal changes. As an employer, implementing policies to tackle work stress is an obvious action but how do we influence what our employees do on their own time? It’s a challenge, and before starting to look at solutions we need to understand the type of ‘sleepers’ we’re dealing with. Common sleep disorders and problems can include; insomnia, snoring, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, night, teeth grinding, leg cramps, terrors and sleep walking. With the addition of those who have poor sleep patterns this is a long and complex list for any organisation to tackle.
In the US market, there are a handful of employers leading the way in making positive change to support better sleep, but ‘sleep pods’ and ‘nap rooms’ aren’t appropriate for every industry. For those looking to take proactive steps here’s basic things you can do in any industry.
- Understand the sleep patterns of your organisation – Before you can implement a program to help your workforce you need to have an overview of their sleep struggles. Conduct an anonymous survey within your workforce to establish the basic sleep patterns.
- Implement specific programs – From your survey results create tailored sleep support and wellness programs. Programs like afternoon meditation can help combat workplace psychosocial risks too.
- Combat workplace psychosocial risks – It’s not surprising that sleep and psychosocial risks have a negative relationship. It’s the responsibility of employers to reduce work related stress and do what they can to combat these risks.
- Educate your staff – Like anything in life, the more educated you are, the more informed your decisions will be. Most people don’t realise the long term and chronic health effects sleep deprivation can have, so inform your workforce. Let them know that sleep goes beyond feeling groggy in work. Have information readily available about what can affect your sleep.
- Brighten the place up – Create bright work spaces with as much natural light as possible. Working in dull, poorly lit spaces affects our circadian rhythm.
- Discourage the extended use of electronic devices – Encourage regular breaks from screens throughout the working day. Although you can’t be there after hours to make sure your employees aren’t spending hours on LinkedIn, Snapchat, ASOS or whatever else, you can and should enforce a company policy of ‘no emails after work’.
Sleep is a vital element to an individual’s health, wellbeing, and performance. With stress simulations on the rise, an ideal solution for progressive employers is to find one affective solution for two very costly problems. Our POWR Life tool facilitates users to self-assess their sleep, in addition to other key areas of wellbeing. Individuals access specific sleep behavioural management plans and resources, while contributing sleep related data to the overall company POWR score. The data collected provides HR with an anonymised aggregated overview of sleep ‘performance’ for the entire company. Resources and ongoing communication from the tool educate users about their wellbeing, while the corporate challenges feature also provides a space for managers to implement company-wide challenges to support initiatives such as afternoon mediation.
Speak to our team today to find out how POWR Life can help maximise your employee performance – email@example.com
Author: Jonathan O’Connell – Wrkit CEO
On the build-up to Wellbeing Day 2017 there was an increased level of ‘fit’ and ‘food’ chat around our offices. It was a fantastic bi-product of this national initiative but left me wondering about the sustainable and ongoing wellbeing programs offered by employer organisations. Are we doing enough to encourage an active lifestyle? Does it really matter if we’re not?
According to the NHS, to stay healthy adults should be active daily and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities – that’s approximately 22 minutes a day. With obesity and related chronic illness on the rise it seems people just aren’t finding the time to get active – it is our responsibility as employers to encourage our employees to be active.
Putting aside the ethics of caring about your employees, there are so many business reasons to encourage this behaviour as part of the working day. Exercise has a profound positive impact on individuals mental and physical health each with a knock-on effect to your business.
Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
- Reduced Stress – The economic cost of stress in the workplace is ever increasing – research shows that exercising with an elevated heart rate can reduce mental and physical stress. Getting active and breaking a sweat can increase concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
- Improved Self-Confidence – For the individual, physical exercise can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Confidant sales people, customer service reps positive about the impact they make, developers and designers boldly innovating – Confident individuals contribute to a confident business.
- Boost Brainpower – Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Physically active employees may be more efficient in their roles, performing at an enhanced mental capacity.
- Sharpened Memory – Regular physical activity boosts memory and improves our ability to learn new things. If you are investing in training your team, you should be investing in their physical activity also.
- Prevent Cognitive Decline – Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. With an ever-aging workforce getting your team active now will pay off in the long run.
- Inspire Creativity – The Huffington Post sites research within the area of exercise, mood and creativity which found that working-out with an elevated heart rate can boost creativity for two hours post work-out. If you are looking across the table at a designer with ‘designers block’ it’s in your best interest to encourage them to take a break a go for a jog.
These mental benefits are just the tip of iceberg, combined with the positive impact on physical health your business could see improvements to:
- business performance
- staff morale
- employee engagement
In addition to reducing:
- accidents and work-related ill health;
- absenteeism and sick pay
- insurance costs
The negative physical effects of a sedentary lifestyle are well publicised but it’s important to realise as an individual and as an employer – if a person is not getting regular exercise it impacts cognitive ability as well as health.
Speak to our team today to find out how POWR Life can help maximise your employee performance – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Jonathan O’Connell – Wrkit CEO