Presented by Sage

How to build a mentally healthy workplace

 ·31 Oct 2022

World Mental Health Day was on 10 October, and it is important that businesses continue the discussion about how they can make mental health a key part of their employee wellness strategy.

This is particularly important in South Africa, which was recently ranked the country with the lowest collective mental health in the latest Mental State of the World report.

Reasons for this include high unemployment rates, low education rates, and feelings of fear and anxiety.

It is therefore important that businesses, and their HR departments in particular, understand how best to handle mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Mental health vs mental wellbeing

Mental health and mental wellbeing are often thought to be the same thing – but while they are closely rated, they are actually different:

  • Mental health refers to a person’s ability to cope with everyday stresses. It has to do with their internal state-of-mind, and includes mental illnesses like depression and general anxiety disorder.
  • Mental wellbeing refers to external factors that impact a person’s state of mind – such as their working conditions, relationships, and confidence in their abilities.

It is important that businesses are prepared to help their employees through these challenges as they are both very prominent in South African workplaces.

A recent survey by IQ Business, a local management and technology consulting firm, found the following:

  • Over 66% of office-based employees experience extreme stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • 92% are concerned by the state of the country’s economy and the potential implications for them and their loved ones.
  • Over 69% are mentally affected by the state of poverty in the country.

This further emphasises the importance of supporting your employees as a South African HR professional.

How HR leaders can help

As an HR leader, you have a big role to play in helping your employees manage their mental health and wellbeing – including the responsibility to get top-level executives to prioritise these important topics.

To achieve this, you must first understand what causes work stress by looking at your organisation’s communication, support structure, career development opportunities, autonomy, workloads, and payment structures, and identify areas where you can make things flow better.

A great strategy in this regard is asking your employees for feedback, as this will help you determine where they are mentally and what they might be looking for from the company.

The International Labour Organisation has also built a list of five main elements that you can consider to improve your approach to mental wellbeing.

  1. Time structure – Clear and realistic structures give employees room to plan their tasks, minimising pressure and anxiety.
  2. Social contact – Even in remote working, there are virtual tools that make social contact possible.
  3. Collective effort and purpose – Employees appreciate seeing their business and HR department take mental wellness seriously.
  4. Social identity – Employees spend lots of time at work, so their treatment in this domain has a major impact on how they define themselves.
  5. Regular activity – Employees want to feel included – whether this entails being asked for feedback or having a say in decision-making.

Tips for promoting employee wellbeing

While every business is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee wellbeing, leading HR software provider Sage has several tips that businesses and HR professionals can use to improve employee wellness in their organisations.

Sage believes that mental health training is a great way to help both employees and employers identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental struggles.

This equips employers and HR to identify red flags and address employee wellness concerns before they become bigger problems.

Sage also believes it is worth hiring external or in-house professionals who can collaborate with your HR department to develop the appropriate infrastructure in your organisation – including programmes, policies, analyses, and best practices.

These professionals can also help you integrate your wellbeing strategy into broader company policies, meaning employees are more likely to follow them.

Finally, Sage recommends using cloud HR software, as this frees up your HR department’s time to focus on the strategic imperatives of your business rather than mundane administrative issues.

A cloud-based HR software also enables real-time collaboration and data tracking so that you can monitor employee wellbeing – even in remote or hybrid workplaces.

Your employees are your most important asset – so click here to learn more about cloud-based HR solutions.

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