This is a measure that is going to grow and grow in importance. Do you want a smiley face or do you want real actionable data?
Times are changing
There’s an interesting double meaning to that subtitle. Times are indeed changing. We are going through a time of unprecedented change, the impact of which we will be feeling for many years to come. Whether it is the changes to the way we measure education of our children (yes again) or the hybridisation of working from home and office. Or simply changes to the taxation system to pay off the safety net we have all needed in some way in the last 18 months. We are going to be exposed to changes in the immediate and distant future.
The other side of that double meaning is simple. As a wise manager of mine early in my career once said “there’s nowt so constant as change.” He was right and the more we understand that blunt but wise statement the more flexible, resilient and successful we can be.
Amongst all of these changes the rising profile of mental health in general and especially in the workplace has been particularly noticeable.It is likely that it is high on the to do list of most HR Directors in the UK and beyond.
Stabbing in the dark
Which leads us to the thorny issue of what intervention to make in this complex area and how do you know they work.
The marketplace for “wellbeing professionals” is a murky area to say the least. It is unregulated and, as such, subject to many people “turning their hand to it” and not always with the best of intentions. It is too easy to take a 6 week course in mindfulness or yoga, change your LinkedIn profile to “wellbeing specialist” and start touting your wisdom and your wares.
Members of specialisms, that are at least self regulated, such as the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists are often more interested in building local practice. They are not especially interested in helping organisations or individuals at scale. That requires different skills.
The app market has noticed the mental health trend as well, and little apps that simply get you to make a smiley face each day are flooding into the market. There are those that will develop really interesting graphs and visuals to explain the smiley faces but not many actually get under the skin of what is going on. Which leads to another issue…
It’s just another can of worms
There is this honest and understandable reaction, especially in squeezed middle manager. They worry that taking too close a look at this subject may just give them another large plate to spin when they are already struggling. It is possible that this external reaction reveals their own personal relationships with mental health…one of avoidance. Whatever the reason they have, they worry that getting too close to this subject involves uncovering unnecessary problems and increasing workload. Equally some genuinely believe that their employees mental health is none of their business.
The can of worms fear is realistic and actually, it is a great analogy. Think of your employees’ mental health issues as those worms that have been trapped in a fisherman’s can for ages, deprived of light and oxygen. You are that person trying to pick just one out at a time and attach it to a line to cast out. Because we treat mental health as a can of worms, that is the reality that we create. As individuals we leave dealing with our own mental health until it is a real problem when it will be complex and take longer to deal with. If we leave our team’s mental health to a point where it is a problem before we build in support then it is going to be very challenging, very costly and painful.
Better, surely, to deal with issues as they start to present and face them rather than wait for them to become a crisis. Crisis management is costly, tiring and more often leads to more crises as other balls get dropped to deal with the presenting urgent crisis.
In this “can of worms” fear there is another underlying fear. That compassion means more work, more resources and an additional burden. Managers fear that they become the ones responsible for sorting out all the issues involved. Well if that was what was expected and needed then we would not have mental health professionals we would just have managers.
Sarcasm aside, managers, leaders and business owners have responsibility towards their employees wellbeing but they don’t have a responsibility to fix it. They can, however, become facilitators noticing changes, signposting and providing technology that can help and support on an ongoing basis.
MHFA is not enough
I have said this in other articles before.
Mental health First Aid (MHFA) is a decent first step in an overall strategy but if you stop or stall at that intervention alone you are letting your teams down. All MHFA does is raise the profile of the issue and pass it down the line. Also since it depends on members of the team spotting symptoms of mental ill health it is deliberately putting in a process that waits until it is too late. The symptoms that others can spot in us, are caused by us, as individuals, experiencing an issue and not dealing with it. That is why it eventually makes its way out in our behaviours and via various physical symptoms. Then we pass them on to a service that can help and support. For many, this means the National Health Service where the waiting list is getting longer and the services are being put under more and more strain.
Ask yourself is waiting until there is a crisis and then passing someone on to a service that is crumbling under the weight of demands and expectation a decent way to look after yourself or others?
Let’s look at measurement
I don’t mean a smiley face each day that feeds into an employee engagement survey.
What if you could, without compromising anonymity, map out your organisations/businesses mental health?
Inner Calm, our online emotional health support service, can do that for you facilitating your measurement with a simple red, amber, green highlight system across 7 areas of emotional and mental health.
Imagine being able to
- Spot and support team leaders experiencing challenging team issues
- Understand the impact of your business cycle and change programmes on your teams mental health
- Plan specific interventions and support activities
- Know that the tool you are using to measure is also implementing person specific individual strategies and tactics to build and maintain mental health and resilience.
If you would like to know more take a look at this page here.
If you are already on to this and would actually like to talk to us about groups workshops or initiatives then click here.
Alternatively, feel free to complete a contact form and start a no expectations chat.
If you choose to have a conversation with us, then you are talking to a team that has unique technology that can be used at scale and who can also talk, after 10 years of supporting businesses in this area, about interventions that really work and deliver results.
The holy grail
There is no perfect solution to any business challenge or presenting issue. We would not pretend otherwise. Over the last 15 years the metric of employee engagement has become the holy grail of organisations with figures amassing that prove that engaged employees are more productive.
When you invest in your employees emotional and mental health you are facilitating emotional independence and strength that will benefit them way beyond the workplace. These are key life skills that all of us can benefit from.
If you choose to actively invest in that area, the message you give your employees is that you care for them on a human level and not just as an employee asset that you need to sweat.
If that doesn’t build genuine committed engagement then I don’t know what will.