It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and a new report from workplace experts ACAS has revealed that two thirds of employees (66%) have felt stressed or anxious about work over the past year.

ACAS recently commissioned YouGov to ask employees in Great Britain about their experiences of stress and anxiety in the workplace.

Anxiety affects us all to varying levels and is a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness or unease. It may be caused by issues in the workplace, such as workload, performance or conflict with colleagues. Outside the workplace, factors such as relationships, family or debt problems can create anxiety.

The most common reasons given for anxiety and stress at work included workloads (60%), the way that employees were managed (42%) and balancing home and work lives (35%).

It is clear that many people currently feel unable to discuss these issues with their managers or struggle alone, so it’s up to you as an employer to create a positive mental health environment at work.

On a practical level, if employees report feeling anxious and stressed about their workload, the way they are managed, or their work-life balance, it’s your responsibility as an employer to listen to them and give them the space to express their views, and make reasonable adjustments to support them.

This could include putting in place a wellbeing strategy in your workplace, introducing flexible working, training managers so they have the confidence and knowledge to enable employees to have supportive conversations around mental health issues, and empowering your employees to identify personal stress triggers, support their colleagues and ask for help when needed. 

Many employees will also be affected by issues outside of work such as family or relationship problems, or financial issues. As an organisation, you need to be compassionate and make reasonable adjustments to support employees going through difficult times, as well as providing practical advice and support when necessary.

As an employer, you’re responsible for setting the strategy on this and providing direction and resources. Take proactive steps to ensure that your business practices are conducive to good mental health. Rather than responding to poor mental health, actively promote positive wellbeing. This could involve communicating a compelling vision, providing learning opportunities, creating meaningful work, and having a sense of shared purpose.  

Your managers have a significant role to play, acting as role models, encouraging positive behaviours and challenging negative ones – how they communicate, provide support and how flexible they are will have a huge impact on the wellbeing of their teams.

This is why training on mental health issues is critical for everyone who holds a people management role. Simply launching an Employee Assistance Programme won’t be enough – it is only through regular communication and engagement with staff that you can show that you care about mental health. 

We all have a part to play in fostering positive mental health at work – every one of us can impact the mental health of someone else by the way we choose to behave, communicate and interact – positively, and negatively.

If you need support on any of the issues, touch on in this post, get in touch!

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