Research reveals more must be done to manage mental health at work

Research by the Institute of Directors (IoD) has revealed that only 14 percent of organisations have a formal mental health strategy in place. The impact of this meant businesses suffered with poorer quality in work and decision making and a higher level of staff turnover.

The results, published in February, found that despite more than half of IoD members receiving complaints from staff about mental health issues, fewer than one in seven had formalised a mental health policy in the office. This survey follows a Labour Force survey which found that 11.7 million working days were lost due to work-related mental health conditions in 2015/16.

The data suggests that more businesses need to shift focus towards strategies such as coaching and mentoring, in order to support staff at all levels when they face challenges including stress, depression, and anxiety. Both results also indicate that when a company fails to focus on the mental wellbeing of its staff, the implications can have a long term financial impact for the business, due to sick leave and a requirement to train new people if the business is unable to retain staff.

David Cliff, one of the North East’s leading business coaches, suggests that by introducing external coaching and mentoring alongside traditional pastoral support, small businesses may be able to offer the support that staff at all levels need to stimulate a positive working environment. This additional support for both management and staff could support the mental health needs at all levels of the organisation.

David Cliff, Managing Direction of Gedanken said: “Mental health deserves to be a higher profile issue. It is time for businesses to turn the spotlight on how they look after their employees with a holistic care strategy.Those that do have had an opportunity to debate and evaluate the value of positive mental health to staff recruitment and retention, and how they perform their job roles.

“Coaching and mentoring are valuable additions to an office’s psychological first aid kit. They are very different skills, but each can have a huge impact on the individual’s performance. Coaching offers a safe space for an exploration of what is inhibiting performance and preventing people functioning at their optimum level, whereas mentoring is more about someone transmitting skills and insights from direct experience. Both are also different to, and not necessarily as time-consuming as, counselling or other related staff support.

“Increasingly, research is suggesting that coaching has its place alongside psychotherapy in promoting the mental well-being of individuals however there will always be an academic debate on this. Coaching can enhance performance, and improves personal growth and development, both of which are conducive to an effective organisation with great leaders at the helm. It’s surprising, therefore, that in times of financial hardship, such support is seen as a luxury rather than a necessity and is often the first to be cut from budgets.

David added: “A good leader is continually on the lookout for signs that their staff might be struggling, however one must remember that a management role is also one of high pressure and intensity, and that a leader’s mental health needs to be taken into account as well. This highlights the importance of coaching and mentoring at all levels within businesses, to ensure that support is available.

“Over 80% of the FTSE top 100 companies employ a coaching culture as they can see the benefits to be self-evident. The same considerations should also be given to smaller businesses to support leaders and staff. When 54 percent of IoD members have identified issues in their workplace, it is clear that more must be done to support both leaders and staff alike.”