We all know a welcoming and open workplace leads to much happier employees. Yet just 13% of employees feel comfortable discussing mental health at work. Let alone other topics that impact all of us, such as menopause, men’s health and much more.
Putting posters up around the office or tentatively requesting people to share their experiences is unlikely to lead to meaningful discussions amongst colleagues. Simply telling people to talk isn’t enough – businesses must demonstrate that the workplace is a safe space to discuss tough topics. And a great way to do this is by organising professional seminars and training managers to have beneficial discussions.
Seminars or webinars led by industry experts helps individuals feel more comfortable discussing tricky topics with colleagues. Wellbeing pros have done it all before, and know the best way to facilitate open, healthy conversations. No more blushes, sniggers or stereotyping. This way, employees feel able to normalise subject matters such as mental health problems. Admitting to feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or having a hot flush shouldn’t be embarrassing or a source of shame. It should be a perfectly normal and accepted thing to discuss.
Is the workplace an appropriate place for conversations on tough topics?
Absolutely. We spent a large proportion of our time at work. It should be our home away from home, and colleagues are often considered friends or support networks. Therefore it’s imperative employees are able to flag concerns around mental or physical health with colleagues and managers – and those colleagues and managers should be equipped with the tools they need to provide the right support.
Talking about certain subject matters openly, raising awareness and de-stigmatising topics is the best possible way to ensure issues such as mental health or the menopause aren’t looked upon as negative.
Let’s be honest – things that happen in our personal life impact us at work too. Period pain, menopausal symptoms or mental health problems are all likely to present issues for an individual. Having to disguise these problems or feel shame associated with them is not acceptable. Instead, being able to discuss working arrangements or additional needs with management is a sure fire way for an employee to feel empowered and supported.
So how does this benefit my business?
Research shows one in four women going through the menopause consider leaving work, according to Bupa Health Clinics around 11 million women have taken lengthy health breaks during their career and a third of women take time off due to female health issues. 44% of men suffer with anxiety at work, with just half of those taking days off due to mental health admitting the reasons to employers. 12.7% of all sickness days are linked to mental health conditions – and yet mental health is still not discussed openly in many workplaces.
It’s clear this is a major issue. Supported employees are more likely to be loyal to a business and be honest about the reason for their absences. This, in turn, heightens staff retention and lowers absenteeism.
All businesses should want to get the best out of their people, and help their people do their best too. Engaged, empowered employees are more productive and generally much happier within work! This leads to a supportive, positive company culture.
You don’t need to be a medical expert
Having a basic knowledge and understanding of key subjects is enough. Your role as a colleague or manager is to support those around you and provide a listening ear when required. One person may never want to talk about their mental health problems, whereas another may be in need of a supportive conversation. Let your team know that you’re there for them when they’re ready.
Having said that, businesses must try to combat misinformation and fake news too! Bring in the experts to run educational sessions or management training, and signpost employees to further reading using official sources of information. Encourage your team to educate themselves on key wellbeing topics, so they know the facts and not the myths. There’s nothing worse than scaremongering or an individual basing opinion or judgements on misinformation.
The future of the workplace
Normalising wellbeing topics through regular workplace discussions, seminars or even newsletter content will help all colleagues recognise that it’s okay to talk, and will encourage them to do so. Noone is suggesting the workplace becomes a hub of discussion or debate. After all, we’re all at work to work. However, the workplace should be a welcoming safe space for individuals to request additional support to help them achieve their best and feel empowered.
We Are Wellbeing delivers seminars and training sessions on a number of wellbeing subjects, designed to educate and engage employees. Whether you want to dispel some myths or normalise previously taboo or tough topics, we’re always here to help. Just let us know what you need.