Mental health may still feel like an unapproachable topic in the workplace.
But data shows 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. When you see statistics like this from Mind, the mental health charity, it’s impossible to ignore as a business owner (or human being in general!).
Work is such a huge part of our lives, and the lives of the teams we employ. It is the responsibility of all of us to create a society in which we’re aware of our own mental health, and the mental health of others.
What’s more, a study published in the Lancet Psychiatry just yesterday (8th April 2021) has found that one in three people who were severely ill with coronavirus were subsequently diagnosed with a mental health condition within six months of infection.
Whether you suffered with the virus itself or were fortunate to have avoided it, we all know how a national lockdown and social isolation has taken a toll on our mental wellbeing this last year.
There is no better time than now to think about how we’re dealing with mental health in our businesses, and to make improvements for a happier healthier team.
Mental health awareness is good for the individual, the business and the wider society
Back in 2017, the Government requested an independent review into how employers can better support the mental health of all people currently in employment. This resulted in Thriving at Work: The Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers, a resource from Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, and long-time mental health advocate Lord Dennis Stevenson. The report has some pretty striking findings. It found:
- 30,000 people experiencing long term health problems lose their job every year
- 15% of people in work have symptoms of a mental health problem
- Poor mental health costs the UK economy between £74 – 99 billion a year, including a cost to employers of between £33 – £42 billion
Positively, in conversation with over 200 organisations, the report found that when an organisation invests in mental wellbeing, there is a consistent positive return. Teams are happier and healthier, companies see a significant reduction in sickness-related absence, and money spent on training is made back as a result.
As a result of these findings the report called for employers to:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
- Develop mental health awareness among employees
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
- Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
- Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing
But in order to make this possible, the report also called on the Government to take responsibility and offer support and incentives to business owners. So what help is out there?
Some tax free ways to keep your team happy and healthy
Fund health-screening and check ups
As an employer you can fund a medical check or health screening for each employee once a year, free from tax. This can be for any physical or mental illness. Here’s the full government guidance.
Offer the possibility of counselling
You won’t pay any tax, national insurance or have any reporting obligations when you provide mental health counselling services for your team. Tax exempt counselling services include help with stress, anxiety, problems at work, bereavement, relationship difficulties, susbtance abuse, sexual abuse and harrassment and a number of other personal issues. Be aware it does not include tax advice, legal advice or any other financial advice. Here’s the full government guidance.
Could someone appoint a mental health first aider?
It is very common for a workplace to have an appointed first aider in case of a physical emergency, but far less common to have a mental health first aider in place for distressing situations. It’s also important to remember that mental health conditions can have very physical symptoms, and can be incredibly scary for the individual experiencing them.
Ask yourself: are you well prepared to deal with a team member experiencing a panic attack? Or receiving a phone call to say a loved one has died? It can be really helpful to have someone on the team trained to respond to these kinds of situations. This would be considered work-related training and qualifies as an exempt benefit for the staff involved.
You can help the wider society by getting your tax return in early (what!?)
This year we’ve been making a charitable donation to Mind on behalf of every client who gets their tax return done early.
For every return you helped us complete before 30 June we gave £10 to the mental health charity. For any return then completed by 31 October we gave £5. This is something we will be continuing!
Get talking (that includes you!)
Along with the government supported initiatives, there may be other ways you can encourage conversation and promote wellbeing in your business.
- How regularly are you checking in on your team?
We think about performance reviews and work check-ins to improve and grow our team, but how often are we checking in on them as people? Especially as we move to become more remote in our ways of working, it can be really effective to put regular personal check-ins in the diary.
If your team is huge, and you simply don’t have time to check in with every member of staff yourself, you might think about implementing a mentorship or management programme where your team are checking in with each other personally.
- How much support are you getting as a business owner?
There’s a reason they say “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others”. If you’re struggling mentally it’s going to be a lot harder for you to support those around you.
Running a business can feel like a lonely journey, and the responsibility of keeping all the plates spinning at once can take a toll mentally. But don’t worry – there is lots of help out there for you. You might want to look into counselling to talk through some of your own personal struggles. You may find joining a network of other business owners helpful. Talking about some of the challenges you share can go a long way to feeling less lonely.
We’d also really encourage you to get the support of a great accountant, if you don’t already. Being able to share the burden of the finances with someone you trust and click with is massive.
We’re here to help you inspire change and find more joy
Joy is one of the four principles at the heart of Raedan. This stuff is important to us, and we’d love to help you find more of it in your work and life.
We’re also passionate about inspiring change through leadership. We want to walk the walk, not just talk. Here are some of the things we’ve implemented to promote wellbeing in our own space:
- Daily team check-ins to catch up and ensure everyone is okay and no one is struggling alone with work.
- Generous holiday to encourage our team to take much needed breaks
- Training support including soon-to-be-launched personal development funds to enable employees to get trained up in non-accounting areas that interest them
- Flexible/remote working opportunities to promote a greater work life balance
We all have a responsibility to change the stigma and statistics about mental health, and create a workplace where it feels safe to talk. We’re here to help however we can.