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Fostering a successful company culture: How businesses can champion mental health in the workplace

by jcp

By: Karen McIntyre, Director of HR at Inntelligence

There has been a plethora of challenges for businesses across sectors throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, placing financial pressures on all firms. However, since restrictions have been eased and businesses attempt to find their feet, a new challengehas reared its head; country-wide, a skills shortage and recruitment crisis are new threats and companies are being forced to reconsider their offerings to candidates.

For hospitality businesses, this staff shortage is pervasive across the industry. While there are many ways in which firms can make themselves more attractive to prospective employees, none are more significant than ensuring the mental wellbeing of staff is at the forefront of operations. In this way, the workplace becomes more conducive to a healthy worker return and the focus on reducing negative mental pressures will aid employee retention, standing firms in good stead to weather the post-Covid storm.

Managing expectations

Acore component of managing post-pandemic staff shortages is retaining employees. In 2020, a report found that 44% of people were anxious about returning to the workplace and, while this is finding from last year, it is important that these worker expectations are carefully considered when designing employee retention strategies.

To mitigate these feelings of anxiety, employers must look to mental health support and consideration as a first port of call. Our mental health has profound implications on productivity and staff retention, with 89% of workers who report mental health issues stating that these affect their working life. In fact, pre-pandemic, the World Health Organisation found that for every $1 spent on treatment for common mental disorders, there is an ROI of $4 in improved health and productivity.

Ensuring the mental health of your workforce ranks highly in your business’ priority list is, therefore,is self-evident when reassessing office culture post-Covid.

Support that matters

Increasingly, candidates are searching for businesses that demonstrate a commitment to caring for their wellbeing. While combating the negative effects of mental health issues in the workplace might seem a daunting task, a little can really go a long way.

Much of Inntelligence’s experience in this regard stems from its work in the hospitality sector and mental health issues areperennialin the industry, with one in five workers suffering from severe work-related mental health issues prior to the pandemic. Consequently, the methods we use are backed by extensive experienceand are often transferable across differing work environments.

Firstly, businesses should consider offering mental health services as a core component of employee benefits. This can include free counselling and access to support groups to help workers to help themselves. Moreover, in many firms, especially those who have a greater number of employees, staff can often feel they are speaking into a void when looking to voice mental health concerns. Companies should work to remove these barriers, giving staff clear direction on how and who to contact to seek support when needed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, offering mental health ‘first aid’ training to staff is vital. This helps equip peers with the necessary tools to identify and provide emergency support for a range of mental health issues.

While these problems can arise suddenly, they can also develop over much longer time periodsand are not always readily apparent to senior management, particularly in larger organisations. With more employees able to offer this immediate support, workers who are more vulnerable to developing these issues can feel far safer and more confident.

Flexibility is key

Instilling confidence in potential candidates and existing employees is a great way to keep them onside and offering staff the ability to work flexibly has become a common tool to achieve this.

Indeed, extensive periods of lockdown have exacerbated mental health issues, particularly for hospitality workers who have largely been unable even to work from home. Although they cannot benefit from the widespread home working seen across the economy, this crisis has highlighted the need for greater flexibility in work patterns.

Hospitality professionals are certainly no strangers to unconventional shift patterns, but this is a far cry from the organised flexibility many employees crave.Employers will need to ensure that they are facilitating and encouraging more flexible ways of working moving forward, appreciatingemployees’ adaptability, rather than exploiting it.

Dissatisfied staff are increasingly prepared to vote with their feet, with 34% saying the choice of flexible work patterns will improve mental health and 41% believingit would benefit theirwork-life balance, combating burnout.

This was recognised at theBurgh Island Hotel, for example, where workers were allowed to live free of charge at the premisesduring lockdown, even while doors were closed to the public.

Healthy and productive

A healthy workforce is a productive one and companies that properly champion mental health will see it pay dividends in the culture and efficiency of their workforce. In fact, for example U.S.employees with unresolved depressionexperience a 35% reduction in productivity, contributing to a loss to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion a year in absenteeism, reduced productivity and medical costs.In the UK, poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion per year.

These are no small sums and are a clear indication of the real-world impacts neglecting the mental health of staff can bring. In empowering employees to seek help through the right channels and ensuring both you and the rest of your workforce are educated on how to support peers, office culture will benefit greatly, bolstering productivity and building longevity into your business.

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