In this modern age we are all faced with constant challenges which can build up to make us stressed. We have all experienced days that seem relentless with childcare, traffic, school runs, after school activities for children, problems with neighbours, partners, pets. It is often difficult to get through each day and even though we may work in a good environment, it doesn’t take much to push us over the edge into stress and anxiety. As leaders it is important that we recognise that much of our colleagues’ stress is not necessarily caused by work, but it is stress nonetheless.
If we want to get the best out of our people, leaders need to know their teams and to look out for signs of stress. Even the best of employers have staff who are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression and you have a duty of care to help those individuals to cope with the difficult balancing act modern life forces on to them.
It is estimated that mental ill-health is costing the UK approximately £70 billion per year (OECD). With the average absence for mental breakdown being 3 months followed by phased returns and “light duties” this is a massive drain on resources. If you take a senior colleague on £40,000 pa you can expect it to cost up to £20,000 for a serious mental health episode. In large businesses, there can be a number of individuals in this position and so the costs mount up. Long before a colleague goes off sick, their performance will degrade and they can pull the whole team down.
Most businesses have well defined procedures for helping employees back into work after a mental illness. They are very good at it and many are very supportive. Unfortunately, very few businesses have mechanisms and programmes in place to help staff avoid breakdowns. Many mental issues can be managed with support and resilience training. Colleagues should be given the opportunity to learn how to manage their mental health and leaders should be taught how to communicate to colleagues in ways which reduce stress.
It is interesting that when asking the staff in businesses about stress management services you get a resounding positive response; your staff are crying out for support. But when asking the leaders of the same organisations you get “everything is fine here, we see no stress”. Does your organisation have its head in the sand when it comes to mental health?
Nooksrest Wellbeing (www.nooksrest.co.uk) was established to offer wellbeing support to the staff and leadership of businesses. Currently working in central Leeds, we are offering free stress management taster sessions. Contact Kevin Whittington (firstname.lastname@example.org) to give it a try.