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Fools set stools for wise men to stumble over

Fools set stools for wise men to stumble over

This article has been published in the 2019 edition of James Caan's 'Your Business' Magazine. If you have already read the article and are looking for more information about our Mental Health & Wellbeing courses, please fill in the form at the bottom of this page. 

Your employee wants a bar of chocolate but they have no change. You dig into your pocket and give them a pound coin so they can grab one from the vending machine. They return with their chocolate two minutes later and explain that the vending machine gave them £4.20 change. This is the average return you can expect from every pound you invest in the mental health and wellbeing of your team.

Yet there are still far too many organisations that treat their employees’ minds as an afterthought - if they consider them at all - and many remain ignorant of the financial benefits to the investment. Fools set stools for wise men to stumble over. And you could call an employer a fool if they considered the mental health of their employees to be anything less than “make it or break it” for the success of their organisation. Yet here many are, a bunch of fools... setting, ignoring and tripping over stools.

The truth of it is that poor mental health is a major contributor to sickness absence, staff turnover and presenteeism in the workplace; the combination of which costs UK businesses between £33 and £42 billion a year.

As a Mental Health First Aider in an organisation that sells Mental Health & Wellbeing eLearning, I am fortunate to be part of a community that cares. But my experience shows me that many businesses shrug off mental health; it’s disposable because it’s invisible. Then again, many of our clients acknowledge its importance to us but they are too uncomfortable to approach it with their staff. So once again, mental health is discarded.

There is also evidence of the matter being met with frustration and even apathy from employers. ‘Mental health’ and ‘wellbeing’ are popular phrases at the moment and as a result, they are at risk of losing the sincerity of their meaning through overuse. But we need to stress that this is not a passing fad. We must keep talking about it. We must.

Our article in James Caan's Your Business Magazine
Our article featured in James Caan's Your Business Magazine

Maybe it’s time to look at this with fresh eyes?

As a leader and decision maker, you are someone that has a substantial influence on the lives of the people working in your organisation. It’s entirely up to you as to whether that is a wonderful difference, a disastrous difference, or anything on the spectrum in between. But let me tell you, the people that keep your business running will either be your ticket to success or your fast-pass to failure - and this largely comes down to whether they feel looked after or not.

The organisation Mind reports that 60% of employees would be more motivated if their employers supported their wellbeing, which makes sense. Why would an employee want to give their time, energy and innovation to an organisation when their happiness is inconsequential to their employer?

Here are three easy ways to make a positive difference without stretching yourself too thin:

  1. Make small gestures. An employee that is coerced into working overtime for no additional pay will become stressed and resentful. An employee that is offered flexi-time to take their child to the doctors will likely work overtime out of gratitude. Consistent gestures such as this are a small but effective wellbeing-investment.
  2. Facilitate change. Empower your employees to look after their own mental health. If done well it doesn’t need to take up your time, just your support of the initiative. Workplace training such as iHASCO’s eLearning courses have that awkward conversation for you, raise awareness of critical issues and common mental illnesses, and they highlight what help is available.
  3. Send someone on a Mental Health First Aid course. It takes as little as half a day or a maximum of two.

What I love about this, is it not only satisfies the empaths, the philanthropists and the caregivers in the business world, it satisfies the unsympathetic too! It’s one of those rare situations where everybody wins despite the motivation behind the investment.

Please note, you don’t need to be an expert on mental health, you just need to support the initiative. If your workplace has its employees’ wellbeing at its heart talent will blossom, productivity will soar, loyalty will strengthen and your company will reap the rewards. Remember, you get your £4.20 and your employee gets their chocolate bar.

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