Email. Phone. Face-to-face chats. We communicate with each other in many different ways every single day, and yet when it comes to certain subjects like our mental health and emotional well-being in the workplace, less than half of employees would feel comfortable opening up to their employer about how they feel. This gaping chasm in communication has become ever wider in recent years despite efforts to raise public awareness of mental health issues, especially after remote working and social distancing became the new ‘norm’ due to the pandemic.
Two of the main obstacles people encounter when it comes to improving their mental and physical well-being in the workplace is confusion surrounding how to seek help, and the fear of not being taken seriously or being denied that help once they’ve asked for it. This perceived barrier in communication poses a real threat to the wellbeing of those employees by creating a vicious cycle of silence; what starts as a small problem doesn’t get discussed and therefore the employer is unable to step in to help resolve the matter quickly, allowing it to escalate into a bigger problem that is even harder for the employee to speak about, causing them to withdraw even further to the detriment of their well-being and work performance.
So, how can employers help their workforce overcome this and create a more positive environment which encourages their employees to ‘open up’?
- Make the first move: when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, many employers take a reactive approach and try to tread carefully around the subject, waiting for their employees to come to them rather than risk causing upset by being too direct. Although this may appear to work for some, in other cases this approach can create a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ culture which can be harmful instead of helpful for the employees. That’s why we here at Employees Health believe one of the most effective ways to ensure the wellbeing of your employees is to be proactive and put resources and procedures into place which focus on their wellbeing before problems arise. The mere existence of such policies can often give employees a boost since it shows them they are more than just a number to you, and this in turn makes it a lot easier for them to take that first difficult step towards seeking help in times of need.
- Shine that light: there’s a reason emergency exit doors are signed and lit; in times of distress, people can easily miss opportunities for help and don’t usually think to look for something they don’t already know is there. The same principle applies when it comes to wellbeing in the workplace – there’s no point putting any policies in place to try to help your employees if you don’t tell them they’re there. Be open with your employees and make sure they know their wellbeing is a top priority through words as well as actions; don’t rely on them remembering one introductory email from six months ago – consistency is key, so always keep that light on!
- Be willing to listen: you’ve implemented wellbeing-centric policies, have shouted from the rooftop about them… now what? It may seem obvious, but the most effective channels of communication are those that run both ways, and this is why it’s important to be open to feedback from your employees and be prepared to adapt your strategies to suit their needs. Our Wellbeing at Work programmes and workshops are designed to be flexible and long-lasting, giving you and your employees the support you need to lay a strong, durable foundation and build upon it together over time.
To find out how our comprehensive 12-month Wellbeing at Work programme can help you, your business and your employees thrive together, get in touch with our team today!