New research into working life post-pandemic has shown that a distressing 42% of employees want to receive more support from their employer when it comes to their mental health. At a time when isolation resulting from a hybrid working model has increased dramatically, there are also new reports around rising burnout cases due to blurred lines between work and home.
Nearly one-third of British employees reported an increase in job stress between 2020 and 2021, and mental health absenteeism in the UK rose by 10% in 2021, resulting in a £14bn cost in lost productivity. Furthermore in a survey by RSPH, 67% of people reported feeling less connected to their colleagues.
So, what can employers do to better meet the needs of their team?
At MindLabs, we’re on a mission to create new habits around taking care of our minds. We want to empower everyone with the tools to reduce work anxiety and stress, and we envisage a world where looking after our minds is as normal as going to the gym. The first step is in acknowledging the new problems that hybrid working (working both from an office and from home) has created.
As workers spend an average of 90,000 hours of their lives working, and without commuting times, it’s important to give team members space to weave more downtime into their weekly routines. This might mean reducing the number of messages that are sent ‘out of hours’, protecting weekend time where possible or even supporting them with mindfulness classes throughout the day. For example, we have short classes like “Managing pressure at work” and “Finding flow and focus at work” allowing team members to take a short respite and recharge. Research shows that mindfulness practices like these can help to counter stress, burnout and improve employee wellbeing.
There is also an increased feeling of isolation as work from home routines mean that those without families, especially the working millennial population, has reduced face-to-face contact or watercooler chat they’d usually find in an office environment. Solutions to this could be to introduce regular virtual coffees or socials with team members, or carving out more time in the office for less structured meetings. After all, cementing relationships is key to maintaining a healthy culture.
Employers also need to think about more specific initiatives aiding the awareness of employee mental health. These might include incorporating a Wellness Actions Plan with personalised, practical tools. Mind provides three free guides which cater for those working in a workplace or those who work virtually. Here at MindLabs, we also offer a free hour of therapy every month to all team members, as we seek to encourage active sharing and discussion of problems with an impartial listener.
Perks can also be appealing to a young, millennial workforce who are used to taking care of their health digitally, with a huge rise in mental wellness products. Over the last few years, this has taken the form of apps, but as a new wave of platforms start to emerge, these millennials can now get more personalised help from home, which can help reduce friction to accessing these services in the first place. After hours, these new platforms can also help team members sleep better and make them more productive and happier overall.
In any workplace, the presence of mental health “champions” can provide an alternative avenue to help encourage workers to speak up about issues they are experiencing and act as a great solution for those who do not feel comfortable raising such matters with their manager.
Mental health champions are of course not designed to replace the role of HR within your organisation, but rather, to work alongside the HR team to create a positive mental health at work experience for everyone.
With a robust employee wellbeing strategy, all businesses can better ensure that their employees benefit from initiatives that both proactively protect their overall mental wellbeing, but also know that the proper support measures are in place should they need them for any issues that do come up.
Adnan Ebrahim is the co-founder and CEO of MindLabs, a new video-first mental wellness platform backed by neuroscience.