In my last update, I asked whether mental health should be a boardroom issue. I ended the post urging my readers to consider mental health as a key aspect of their discrimination policy, as well as their wellbeing agenda. The reason for this is because mental health issues are increasingly seen as disabilities.
Unfortunately, the status of one’s mental health and well-being is invisible or intangible, unlike say a broken arm or even a bad back. Whilst it may not be difficult to witness that a colleague is suffering physically, which might impact his or her ability to sit or walk, somehow a physical condition is regarded as ‘normal’ and readily understandable, to the extent that you or anyone might feel well-disposed to talking freely with them about how their back is affecting their day. It might be very clear that certain duties are going to be a struggle for them whilst incapacitated.
However, what if that same person was, instead, suffering from anxiety. You might be able to see that they are stressed and out of sorts, but how does that impact their ability to carry out their day to day duties? Would that same colleague talk about their anxiety issues? Would you feel confident to approach them about it? Somehow, it seems invasive to even want to broach the subject and that employee might feel isolated and start to feel a drain on their confidence ushering in all sorts of other complications, which usually manifest themselves as poor performance issues, but yet have a deeper root cause.
Mental health issues aren’t as obvious as physical ones. With law, for example, we lawyers understand concepts such due-diligence reporting, warranties and indemnities; in employment law circles we might speak of service agreements and redundancy processes. All these things are readily understandable concepts. Yes – they might be explained in, sometimes, complicated language, but the language is apt for its purpose, and is suitable for everyone to understand. Mental health is harder to pin down. What might make sense to me, may not make sense to you.
So how can this impact boardroom conversations? Well, taking mental health seriously is an important step, as is general well-being, and what better time to give it due consideration than this time of year? The festive season is not full of cheer for all (putting to one side the matter of what can go wrong at the office Christmas parties), and perhaps you might consider advice from Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) which offers great tips to explain what makes a healthy workplace. Here are three things that stood out to me, as things management can do to encourage a strong sense of well-being:
Back to those Christmas parties:
I will let you into a little secret. A common anxiety about Christmas parties is ‘ how do I get home, safely?’ It might be sensible to lay on transport, perhaps taxis for female staff at the end of the evening?