Does Your Boss Prioritise Your Mental Health?
Does your boss prioritise your mental health? (And what to do if they don’t)
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10 October is World Mental Health Day 2022.
Organised by the World Health Organization (WHO), the day aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage better support worldwide.
The theme of World Mental Health Day 2022 is ‘Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority.’ While the pandemic shifted our focus in recent years, WHO is calling for businesses, governments and individuals to make a renewed effort to prioritise our collective mental well-being in 2022.
Work and mental health
For many of us, work plays a huge role in the quality of our mental health. Perhaps that’s unsurprising, with an average of 84,365 hours spent at work during our lifetimes (equating to roughly 1/3 of our lives).
Poor work conditions can take their toll on any one of us. It’s estimated that over 12% of all work absences in the UK result from a mental health condition, while nearly a quarter of all UK adults report feeling stressed by their jobs.
It goes without saying that unchecked mental illness can have horrible consequences and that people with a mental health illness can experience a worse quality of life. While not all mental health conditions are caused by personal circumstances, many can be alleviated through changes to the conditions in which we live and work.
In this article, we’re exploring how work can play a part in helping employees to prioritise mental health. If, after reading this article, you find that your workplace is not making mental health a priority, we also have some advice about the steps you can take next.
A complete summary of your duties
Understanding the exact duties of your role is an essential factor in workplace wellbeing. Many of us get peace of mind from knowing that we are meeting workplace expectations. Having a summary of our roles helps us to gauge whether we are achieving our goals, and where we can make improvements.
If our duties are ambiguous, if the scope changes, or if the bar for success always moves, we can experience a sense of underperformance in our roles, while feeling helpless to remedy the situation.
As employee engagement insights platform Happy explains, "Good job descriptions improve morale because they remove most of the uncertainty and confusion. An employee knows exactly what is expected of them, which gives the employee a chance to improve their skills and increase productivity."
You should never be in doubt about the requirements of your role and how to succeed within your organisation.
A culture of support, not blame
A culture of blame seeks to accuse and criticise people for their mistakes. And it's not productive. As Michael Timms writes in the Harvard Business Review, "When we blame others for our problems, it kills accountability in ourselves by making us passive victims, and it kills accountability in others by encouraging them to pass the buck."
If team members fear being blamed when things go wrong, they are more likely to cover up mistakes, leading to a culture of secrecy, dishonesty and shame. Blame cultures can cause anxiety about going to work and even reduce staff retention.
Conversely, a learning culture never seeks to apportion blame; rather, when things go wrong, people feel empowered to work together to put things right and take learnings from the experience.
Sadly, we can't all be millionaires. But, we can - and should - expect to be fairly compensated for our work. A fair salary reflects the volume and quality of the work you deliver, and should factor in the skills, experience and value you add to your company.
Being unfairly compensated for work can take its toll on your mental well-being. This is especially true if you see that others are being paid more while performing the same duties. A 2016 study shows that women making less money than their male counterparts are 2.4 times more likely to experience depression.
Being unfairly compensated for your work can take its toll on your mental health. In an economic climate where financial challenges are getting harder to navigate, nobody can afford to be underpaid. A workplace that prioritises wellbeing will also prioritise fair pay.
The right to switch off
One of the biggest causes of work-related ill mental health is overworking. Shockingly, workers worldwide put in an extra 9.2 hours of uncompensated overtime every week.
Working long hours with a high work volume can lead to burnout. In some parts of Europe, it is illegal for bosses to contact employees after hours. This rule ensures that there is no expectation to check emails or answer work phones outside your contracted hours (unless you are being compensated for being on call).
Companies that prioritise mental health don't expect teams to work beyond their contracted hours. They also encourage teams to take their holidays without guilt.
If you are ill - whether physically or mentally - you need time to rest and recuperate. While some companies offer only statutory sick pay, many are more generous with their sick pay allowance.
Companies that prioritise mental health also tend to accommodate sick days and understand that to feel better, people need time to recuperate.
So, what should you do if you feel your company is not prioritising your mental health?
When you feel you're in an unsupportive work environment, this can be a challenging situation to navigate. We're sorry if this is one you find yourself in, and we hope the situation gets better for you soon.
The good news is that, while challenging, there are steps you can take to improve the issue.
First, review your company's policies. If elements of your company guidelines are not being put into practice, this gives you an opportunity to raise concerns with HR.
For example, if you are expected to answer phone calls outside of working hours where your contract or company guidelines state that this is not a requirement without compensation, then you can collect evidence and file a complaint.
That said, for various reasons, many people are hesitant to raise complaints. If you feel that there is no step that you can take to improve your current work situation, then it's worth considering finding a new job.
Finding a new job
When your mental health quality is low, finding a new job is easier said than done, as you might feel lacking in energy or confidence.
But recruitment companies like Eden Scott can do some of the heavy lifting for you, working with you to understand your skills and the types of roles you'd excel at while placing you for interviews at relevant companies.
If you'd like to move to a company that does prioritise mental health, it's essential to be clear about what aspects of your role and organisation you would like to be different. You don't want to feel trapped in a similar situation again. Take some time - either independently or with a recruitment specialist - to determine what's right for you.
Work can have such a significant impact on our well-being - probably more than we realise. So, this World Mental Health Day 2022, let’s all take some time to reflect on whether we’re prioritising our mental well-being - and whether our workplaces are helping us to do the same.