​​Creating conversation around mental health in the workplace​

Just 13% of employees would be comfortable talking about mental illness at work.

In many parts of the world, mental illness has long been considered a taboo topic. Especially in the UK, where a stoic demeanour and stiff upper lip is considered an attribute of the British people.

At Sensat, we are working to dispel these stereotypes by encouraging more conversation around mental wellbeing, Recently, James Fricker, Managing Director at Sensat, and office manager Jimmy Donny Cosgrove, recently sat down to discuss mental health in the workplace in a podcast. Jimmy was kind enough to open up about some of his own personal experiences in the hope that others may take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in facing mental health struggles.

  • Just 13% of employees would be comfortable talking about mental illness at work
  • 1 in 5 people have taken a day off due to stress. Yet, 90% of these people cited a different reason for their absence
  • 15% of employees who disclosed mental health issues to their line manager reported being disciplined, dismissed or demoted

These are deeply troubling statistics which really emphasise the stigma that surrounds mental health, especially in the workplace. When noticing that a colleague is feeling physically unwell, most people would feel comfortable asking them how they’re doing, and be happy to offer support. But sometimes asking someone how they’re doing on an emotional level can be nerve-wracking. We may worry that we’ll make the situation worse or that we’re overstepping professional boundaries.

​There is no perfect way to promote conversation about mental health. But encouraging a culture that is non-judgemental, kind and empathetic is key.

Here are 3 things we can do to help create conversation around mental health:

1. Consider mental health training

Understandably, the focus of mental health within the workplace may be a new concept for many employees, including managers. Without training, you may feel your efforts are inadequate or even unhelpful. A survey found that eight out of ten employees think it would be helpful if all businesses provided mental health awareness training to line managers.

At Sensat, part of our ongoing campaign to end the workplace stigma means appointing qualified mental health first aiders. The role of a mental health first aider in the workplace is to be a point of contact for an employee who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. This interaction could range from having an initial conversation through to supporting the person to get appropriate help. We appointed Sensat’s Managing Director, as our first qualified mental health first aider earlier this year, with a view to encouraging more people to do the course as Sensat continues to grow.

2. Increase awareness

There are some important dates throughout the year which can help to get the conversation started, including the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week in May and World Mental Health Day in October. There are also many internal milestones that can help to put mental health on the agenda.

This year during World Mental Health day every employee at Sensat received a voucher to grab a coffee with someone in the business selected at random. We saw this as an opportunity to better get to know one another, with the hopes of encouraging an openness around mental health.

3. Monitor engagement

If you carry out engagement surveys, and pay attention to them, it’s possible to get an indication of the overall mental wellbeing of employees. Most large companies survey employees’ attitudes to see how they feel about the work they are doing, work/life balance, and more – but smaller companies can do this too. Not many people are aware of just how important engagement is as a preventive factor of poor health issues.

When people are engaged, it means that they are enthusiastic, positive, and proud to be a member of the organisation. All of these factors forecast positive well-being. In contrast, when people are disengaged they are at a higher risk of stress and burnout. Both of which worsen the overall health of employees.

Companies who invest in the mental health of their people and foster an open dialogue about mental health issues will also be creating a positive workplace and a place where people want to work. Taking proactive measures can significantly improve staff wellbeing and encourage employees to seek the support they need. Meanwhile, employees can also take their own steps to look after their wellbeing, from doing more exercise to confiding in a friend or colleague.

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