Mental health vs cultural wealth?..........Why your mental health initiatives aren’t changing your culture
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019) raises awareness of the impact of issues like stress, relationships and loneliness on mental health.
Working with small businesses we have seen an increase in the confidence employees feel in raising concerns about their mental health at work (which perhaps doesn’t mirror bigger organisations), and the appetite business have to embrace mental health initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week. So, why do businesses find it hard to create a culture focussed on good mental health? We thought we would share some of our experiences.
The reality of work is that it is full of deadlines, goals, expectations and different types of relationships. All of these things create a level of pressure. It’s very difficult for businesses to find a way of dialling down any of these components without sacrificing some efficiency, profitability or team dynamics. If you add to this the fact that most people want to project professionalism and capability at work, it’s quite typical that employees don’t want to reveal that their mental health is suffering until they really have no choice, which is often too late.
Mental health week… month… year
Mental health awareness week is great, it has genuinely brought awareness to a huge problem and that can only be a good thing. However, if you are only talking about the importance of looking after mental health once a year, you shouldn’t be surprised if your culture isn’t changing. These conversations need to be part of the way you lead your teams, plan your work, develop your business objectives and write your HR policies.
You might know it’s the right thing to do, you may even have their own mental health concerns so you understand what it means - but there are targets to meet and work to do so there isn’t really time to commit to changing the culture is there? No business is perfect and you shouldn’t try to make every initiative part of your culture. However, if mental health is a key priority for your business, the senior team need to role model it and make it a genuine part of how they work, every day.
People managers are scared to talk to their teams about mental health. I don’t blame them. It can be very difficult to talk to a member of your team when you think they may have a mental health issue. You might be worried about making the problem worse. Or you could just be burying your head in the sand hoping it resolves itself. No standalone well-being initiative is a substitute for your people managers’ ability (or feeling able) to have open honest conversations about mental health with their teams.
We have partnered with a Mental Health First Aid for England trainer to run short courses aimed at small business, so leaders have the skills and confidence to address the issues as they arise. If you want to make good mental health a core part of your business culture, we work with businesses to create great places to work, get in touch for more information.
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