Most employers will be aware of the need to support employees’ mental health and wellbeing, but often they aren’t equipped to do this.

One of the main factors affecting the mental health of staff is stress, with more than one in five people (21%) taking a day off work due to stress and 14% having actually resigned due to stress.1 This illustrates the need for companies to be aware of their employees’ stress levels, but this can sometimes be difficult due to many staff members’ reticence to discuss what can often be a taboo subject.

Unable to talk

Almost one in five staff (19%) feel they are unable to speak to their managers about stress at work2, but recent research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that many bosses are feeling the pressure themselves.

When questioned for the CMI’s Quality of Working Life Study, 77% of the managers surveyed said they work for at least an additional hour each day, which adds up to 29 days each year and effectively negates their annual holiday allowance, which stands at an average of 28 days.3

More than half of those questioned (54%) said that the increased working hours are affecting their stress levels, and it is a problem that appears to be prevalent across all sectors and at all levels of hierarchy.3

Although many companies say they would like to do something to address the situation, 56% of employers feel they do not have the right training or guidance to be able to manage stress levels among staff.4

The ‘Accidental Manager’

In the workplace, one of the main contributors to stress is the ‘accidental manager’ situation, where an employee gradually assumes the responsibilities of a manager, either due to lack of resources or a personnel change, without actually being employed as a manager.5

The result is that the individual’s workload and accountability increases, but often not their salary, or in some cases they may receive a pay increase but not be entirely suited to the job and have only taken it because there was simply nobody else to do it.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said that a lack of support from companies and senior managers can have a severe detrimental effect on mental health, with employees at all levels of the company hierarchy affected.6

“There’s nothing wrong with hard graft, but only if you’re well supported. Accidental managers who lack the professional skills to deal with the causes of burnout are a threat to their health and others’ at work.

“Productivity will also continue to suffer unless employers train their managers to prevent overwork and strike the necessary work/life balance.”

Be a proactive employer

Although the problem is not an immediately solvable one, there are steps that can be taken to help lower stress levels in the workplace.

Effective management is still found to be a key factor in handling stress in the workplace, with the worst management styles generating up to four times more stress than the best styles. In the 2016 CMI Quality of Life survey, 28% of respondents who have a ‘secretive’ or ‘suspicious’ line manager reported feeling stressed, whereas of those who believe their managers empower them to make decisions, only 7% said they were feeling stressed.6

Implementing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can help support the wellbeing of your workforce, particularly their mental health. An EAP provides staff with access to confidential support, assistance and counselling to help them deal with a range of life events.

Not only does an EAP benefit the individuals that use the service, but it can also benefit managers who may not be trained to deal with the issue at hand and give them somewhere to signpost their team members for professional guidance and support. Accidental managers could also use the EAP to get ideas on how to deal with their increased workload and pressure they are having to cope with in their role.

If you already have an EAP in place, you should ensure that you communicate clearly with your workforce about the services available and how they access it; whether this be at staff briefings, in 1-2-1 meetings, on the intranet or staff newsletter. Employers have a duty of care with regards to the health and wellbeing of staff, and ensuring that access to the EAP is communicated effectively to them is a good place to start.

Asset from Sovereign Health Care is an employer paid health care cash plan that not only includes an EAP as standard, but also supports the general wellbeing of your workforce by paying money back for a range of everyday health costs including dental treatment, glasses and contact lenses and much more.

To find out more, click here.

3 Chartered Management Institute
5 Chartered Management Institute
6 Chartered Management Institute

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