Every September in Australia for 1 day our socials are flooded with posts about R U Ok day. Big corporates do the obligatory “Ask a mate if they are ok” post, emails are sent out from our employers encouraging us to ask for help, then …………… nothing.
And while R U Ok day is great place to start for raising awareness, there is still a lot more that needs to be done to support employees with mental health issues.
There has to be more after asking R U Ok?
We all know 2020 hasn’t been great for mental health, and I’m not going to spend time in this space because the reality is workers compensation mental health claims have been rising by an average of 22% year – on – year since 2017. However, The Wellbeing Lab in-conjunction with the Australian HR Institute conducted a State of Wellbeing in Australian Workplaces survey in December 2019 with updated 2020 questions to capture the post bushfires and COVID impact. You can read the report HERE. to see the latest data with a COVID element applied.
According to the Black Dog Institute, the key to employers addressing mental health in the workplace is putting effort into implementing proven programs to support their colleagues, instead of simply holding coffee mornings to raise awareness. “Australia does not need any more mental health awareness campaigns because we do not have a mental health awareness problem,” said Sam Harvey, chief psychiatrist at the Black Dog Institute. “GP surgeries up and down the country are full of people asking for help with their mental health.”
The Institute has gone as far as identifying 4 key signs your workplace isn’t taking mental health seriously –
- You have morning teas on awareness days
Morning teas are social – they fool us into thinking that workplaces are ’doing their bit’. But do they really have your back when it comes to mental health? New research shows that Australia does not have an awareness problem, and that it’s time to move on from these campaigns. Workplaces need to use the momentum generated by morning teas and channel this into something constructive.
- They don’t offer flexible work arrangements
We’ve been hearing about work-life balance for over a decade, and for good reason. Offering flexibility is a sure way for workplaces to look after their employees and this has never been more significant in a remote working COVID environment.
- You feel guilty taking a mental health day
Mental health is just as much a reason to take personal leave as a physical illness. Research shows that mentally healthy workers are more productive and less likely to take sick leave, so it’s actually a win-win for both employee and employer. If you struggle to ask for, or are denied, a mental health day, something needs to change.
- There is no practical training offered
It’s 2020 and mental health is now part of Australia’s national agenda. This means workplaces need to implement mental health training for you and your colleagues and put support systems in place.
My son works for a big employer in our hometown, this year they won an award for their industry leading mental health program to support its employees. The first my son, who has worked for this organisation for the past 4 years, heard about this initiative was when I sent him a screenshot of a LinkedIn post made by his employer. A bit of a disconnect between what they say they are doing and what they are actually doing isn’t there?
A lot of people in senior positions don’t know how to have a conversation about wellbeing, for many leaders they are from a generation (particulary males) who were taught that talking about feelings was airy fairy and best left alone. It’s also these attitudes that are killing our fathers, brothers and sons.
If you are concerned about someone’s mental health & wellbeing, talking to them about it just involves a simple sentence: “I’ve noticed you have been more or less (followed by the behaviour)” For example, I’ve noticed you’ve been arriving late to work, I’m just wondering if everything ok?. You are just stating you’ve noticed a behavioural change, no assumptions, no diagnosing, its just the start of a conversation
Workers who reported that their managers often expressed care, compassion, gratitude, and appreciation towards them were statistically more likely to be able to manage their wellbeing, and reported higher levels of job satisfaction, performance, and commitment to their organisations.
But as with everything in life being able to do this, and do it well, is a learned behaviour. Training and coaching needs to occur throughout the organisation. It isn’t enough to roll a program out at the corporate level and neglect training those on the ground. It needs to be a whole of organisation approach.
Workplace Wellbeing strategies should provide a systems-wide approach to caring for wellbeing by providing workers, leaders and their organisation with an evidence-based framework that is easy to understand and measure and encourage small daily actions that can be incorporated into the way people work. Kylie McLerie from Collective Culture Consultancy can support your organisation, big or small, to implement a framework. You can find Kylie HERE.
As we head to the close of 2020 I will leave you with this thought
Practice what you preach, your token words don’t make you a better person. Your behaviour does.
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