By Holly Ashby
It’s becoming increasingly clear that businesses, both big and small, can not afford to ignore mental health. Whether an organisation has three employees or three thousand, corporate wellbeing is becoming a new priority – especially for small business owners who are shouldering much of the stress of running a company on their own. By not taking care of their own mental health, and that of their staff, business leaders run the risk of creating extra costs and neglecting their social responsibilities – all of which highlights the importance of creating a mentally healthy workplace.
It’s personal, and it’s business.
When looking at the cold facts, it’s clear that issues with mental health aren’t good for business. Depression and its related illnesses are thought to lose the American economy $210 billion per year, with absenteeism, staff turnover and decreased productivity all contributing to the cost. The quality of work can also suffer when people are experiencing chronic stress, creating a culture of so-called “fire-fighting” rather than the coherent, planned strategies businesses need to succeed.
There’s also the human level to consider. Firstly, pressured entrepreneurs often neglect their own mental health in order to prioritise their professional lives, storing up problems for the future. Secondly, nobody wants to be responsible for the unhappiness of others, so creating a supportive and relaxed working environment has as much to do with peace of mind as well as the bottom line.
No one intends to foster a working culture where people are desperately stressed, but the everyday needs of the business can take precedence as entrepreneurs and employees respond to the needs of the moment. For example, by working late to finish a project with the intention of going home early the next day, only to find that this opportunity to relax never comes. Counterbalancing this may take a little thought, but it’s well worth the time.
Look at your management.
Whether you’re the one in charge or you employ someone to be so, honestly assessing your management is a key part of the general wellbeing of the organisation. Start off with the obvious – does anyone feel discriminated against or unfairly targeted in your organisation? Keep a close eye out for intolerance, and be equally aware of any favouritism that could be causing resentment amongst the other employees.
Another thing to avoid is micro-managing – it can cause tension and strain if someone who’s perfectly capable is constantly watched, hectored or unnecessarily redirected to other tasks. Everyone should know what’s is expected of them, as uncertainty can create stress, and workloads should be reasonable no matter how stretched you are. If there’s simply too much work, you’ll have to employ someone else – expecting your current workforce work at an impossible rate will end in employees handing in their notice.
- Overtime should be a choice, not a requirement.
- People should, without exception, be paid on time and what they expect – make payroll a priority.
- Aggression is never an acceptable management style.
- Assess your employees’ personalities and respond accordingly. Don’t let the workaholics take on more than they can manage, or put too much pressure on shyer employees to be outgoing.
- Enforce breaks, make sure people book their holidays and encourage them to go home on time.
On a personal level, entrepreneurs need to recognise when they are going through a rough patch. Success takes hard work and effort, but when facing a difficult situation or mental health issues doing what you can to relieve yourself of stress is hugely important. Self care, rest and even a short break can make the difference between returning to work with renewed vigour and becoming inactive for months with ill-health and burnout.
Influencing the culture of your company can ensure that this doesn’t happen to your staff, as well. Make sure that people don’t read or send work emails outside of work hours (unless absolutely necessary) and create an atmosphere where they know they can talk to you with confidentially. Those with young children and other outside commitments (such as an older relative they care for) could benefit hugely from flexible working hours, or the opportunity to occasionally work from home.
By offering a host of options which support your staff, you will foster their loyalty and gain a reputation as a great place to work – all things that will have a tangible effect on your bottom line.
Holly Ashby is a content creator and social media manager who has worked with various start-ups on their brand and content strategy. She works with the rapidly growing meditation company Will Will Williams Meditation, who help people lower their stress and improve their performance through meditation, as well as managing the social media profiles of not-for-profit companies.