The additional stresses that COVID 19 pandemic has placed upon employees has brought into stark relief the need for workplace mental health training. There are three main types of mental health issues that organisations are faced with:
- The stress of contracting COVID 19
Some employees, especially the older ones and those with underlying health conditions, may worry about becoming infected. This piles on top of whatever stress they usually have from their workload, and for some people, this impairs their ability to be fully productive. Employees who are already prone to anxiety or in high-stress roles are most at risk here.
- Working from home and the effects of isolation
Some people don’t cope very well with long periods of being alone. People who tend towards depression are at particular risk. Unfortunately, most people who have lots of negative thoughts about themselves don’t seek help to address the underlying causes, and instead, try to pretend everything is okay by distracting themselves with people and activity. That strategy doesn’t work, however, when you have to stay home alone for weeks on end.
For other people the issue has been having to keep their young children entertained and home-schooled. Many parents, especially single parents, have found this has put a big strain on their mental health.
- Desire to keep working from home
For other employees, the situation is the reverse: they’re enjoying working from home so much that they don’t want to go back to working in the office, at least not full time, anyway. Perhaps there are dynamics in the office that create additional unnecessary stress, which has been highlighted by the contrast. Employers who want to retain their staff will need to address the causes of those stresses and give employees the skills they need to better deal with the office stress.
Types of Workplace Mental Health Training
There are two main types of workplace mental health training: that focused on awareness, and that focused on building resiliency.
1. Workplace Mental Health Awareness Training
It’s a bit like mental health first aid and covers the basics of:
What’s healthy, what’s not and the common symptoms
The importance of early intervention and how to get help
How to communicate with someone if you have concerns about their mental health
Awareness training can be further tailored to suit the needs of staff or the specific training needs of managers.
2. Workplace Mental Health Resiliency Training
The resiliency focused training helps staff learn preventative skills and strategies to keep themselves mentally healthy. They can be categorised into:
- an overview workshop that covers the important information, or
- more detailed training that covers a specific skill or strategy, such as:
- positive psychology
- confidently facing challenges
- practical skills for reducing stress
- the effect of lifestyle, including exercise and nutrition, on mental health.
Benefits of Workplace Mental Health Training
The three main reasons for providing mental health training to your staff are legal, financial, and being a good corporate citizen.
WHS laws state that employers “have a duty to protect workers from psychological risks as well as physical risks.” Providing your staff with mental health training is an important factor in demonstrating that you have met the legal requirements.
The safeworkaustralia.gov.au website states that employers “should intervene if they identify a psychological risk or notice a worker becoming stressed…” This means that managers at all levels should be able to identify psychological risks, as well as be alert for the main symptoms of common mental health conditions.
Productivity will increase due to employees being more engaged at work and taking less time off. There might also be less conflict and more co-operation among co-workers.
A SafeWork NSW (government) report (2017) found that investing in mental health at work produced an ROI of $2.86 for SMEs and $4 for larger companies.
The report found that 16.1% of female employees and 13.2% of male employees experienced a significant level of mental ill-health in a four-week period. That’s a percentage of any workforce that’s too large to ignore.
Some of the financial benefits include:
- Less Presenteeism
Presenteeism occurs when an employee is present at work but isn’t mentally healthy enough to perform their job totheir usual standard. The SafeWork report found that the cost of presenteeism averaged $3401 per year for employees with moderate mental ill-health and $5305 for employees with severe mental ill-health. Presenteeism is the highest cost of workplace mental health issues.
Raising mental wealth awareness in the workplace can help these employees recognise that they need help and seek it, sooner rather than later. It can also help their managers and co-workers recognise the common symptoms and know how to communicate with them to get them help.
- Less Absenteeism
Employees experiencing mental illness take relatively few additional days of sick leave, with those experiencing mild mental ill-health taking only an extra 0.5 days per year and those with worse mental health conditions taking only 0.9 days extra.
- Fewer worker’s compensation claims
While only about 6% of all workers’ compensation claims are for work-related mental health conditions (less than one per thousand workers), they are expensive (averaging $68,844 each) and usually require long periods off work (15.3 weeks).
91% of mental health workers compensation claims were attributed to mental stress.
41% are caused by harassment, bullying or exposure to violence.
- Higher Staff Retention Rates
It’s expensive to advertise for, interview and train new staff, so it’s important to minimise staff turnover by creating a working environment that’s conducive to good mental health, and training employees in the skills to handle challenging and stressful situations.
Being a Good Corporate Citizen:
Life is better when everyone feels good about what they’re doing. And these days, there’s a growing movement towards ensuring that organisations are responsible corporate citizens who treat their employees as human beings and not just disposable cogs in the wheel.
In most cases, by providing mental health training to an employee who needs it, not only you be helping them and your organisation, you’ll also be helping their family. Because of the traditional stigma and silence associated with mental health, most people won’t ever seek help or mental health education. The workplace is, therefore, in a unique opportunity to provide this vital educational service that will make a big positive difference in many people’s lives and also gradually improve our society as a whole.
The best breeding ground for productivity is a positive workplace that ensures everyone’s wellbeing.
Components of Workplace Mental Health Workshops
Here are some of the main areas which mental health training programs can cover.
One reason that many people with considerable degrees of anxiety or depression don’t seek help is that they don’t realise that what they’re experiencing isn’t normal. Helping people recognise the difference between what’s mentally healthy and what’s not, and dispelling common mental health myth’s is the first step in workplace mental health training.
Where to Get Help
People need to know that the it’s easy to get help and where to find it.
How to Communicate
All employees and especially managers must know how to speak with someone who they think may need mental health support. It’s all too easy to say the wrong thing or to say nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing.
Impact of Lifestyle Choices
It’s surprising how many lifestyle choices can negatively impact our mental health. A habit of drinking coffee at night, for example, can produce chronic lack of sleep and thus lack of energy, resulting in lower tolerance of stress, which may lead to anxiety and or depression.
Stress Reduction Techniques
Scientific research has shown that mindfulness and other meditation techniques reduce stress levels and improve wellbeing. We can provide Mindfulness and Meditation Training Workshops to teach your staff the skills they need, and Meditation Practice Classes to help your staff get into the habit of meditating. We can also customise a more general Stress Management Training for you.
Resiliency and Positive Psychology Techniques
The ability to deal with challenging situations and bounce back when life knocks you about is called resiliency. The skills to deal with life in a positive way can be taught in a Resilience and Positive Psychology workshop.