By Business Author and founder of Purple Cubed, Jane Sunley
In May 1998 footballer Justin Fashanu, the UK’s first £1m black player, tragically took his own life in a Shoreditch garage. He could no longer deal with the abuse he received at work and from the public for coming out as gay – even his own brother had offered him £75,000 to ‘stay in the closet’. Yet his death by suicide attracted 40% less news coverage than his sexuality.
Fast-forward 20 years and everyone’s talking about the recent passing of Love Islander Mike Thalassitis. Shame on ITV that it’s taken a tragic suicide to make them suddenly realise that they should offer better aftercare for people on reality shows in the form of support, therapy, media training and so on. As any decent employer knows, it’s a key responsibility to support and promote good mental health in order to avoid escalating occupational stress to illness and even death.
Workplace stress not only causes a lot of lost sleep, it’s also triggering almost half of the UK workforce to look for an alternative job. Shock statistic time? Yes, though not all that surprising really when you consider that, every day, the average person is bombarded with enough information to overload a laptop within a week.
Despite becoming a more mainstream topic, changing employer attitudes towards mental-wellbeing is still overdue. And, since April is stress awareness month, what better time to reassess the way you deal with the prevention of unhealthy stress and related conditions and also review the support you offer for the one in six of your workforce who are likely to be facing mental health issues at work.
Purple Cubed’s 10-point plan for improving mental health at work:
- Get the board on board – this might need some strategic and tactical changes to the way the rest of these points are dealt with
- Leaders at all levels must be aware, willing and able to fully support and promote workplace wellbeing – definitely no toxic bosses!
- Make sure dialogue is open and two-way – it’s good to talk; mental health is no longer a taboo subject, consider mentoring schemes and digital communications platforms and our own Talent Toolbox
- Create support networks, consider employee assistance helplines and / or employing an internal counsellor
- Communicate responsibly to avoid information overload – this includes a healthy attitude towards email
- Take a serious look at work life balance – pretty sure you could do more here to help people regain control over their lives; think working off site, shift swapping, parent shifts and so on
- Enable a bottom up approach to progression and learning with flexible opportunities for all – stop moving people around like chess pieces or developing only the elite few
- Encourage social interaction at work, the team dynamic is critical to happiness at work, perhaps make available a small budget for people to plan their own thus avoiding ‘enforced fun’
- Support absentees by keeping in touch and offering help as appropriate (led by the individual – you can’t know what level of support would be appreciated)
- Be kind – a simple, cost neutral yet highly effective way to improve mental wellbeing at work and help people to love what they do