Are we doing enough to support mental health in the workplace?
I'm still what I would consider to be a young man (40 next year….shhhh), although some of our trainees may disagree. Growing up in the 80's and certainly for the first thirty years of my life, I had not really heard the term 'mental health' used too often in conversation nor promoted in the way it now is. Everyone is more aware than ever, that our mental health needs to be considered, supported and nourished. We never used to have #mentalhealthawareness…….. we never used to have hashtags full stop. Hash used to be a brilliant addition to Sunday brunch* :-) (*still is!).
Certainly, in the past few years when we have been recruiting our trainees, I have been asked several times what we as a firm do to help manage our trainees' mental health……. I admit the first time I was asked this question I think I stared into space for a good 10 seconds (and subsequently lost a candidate). I therefore had to educate myself if we were hoping to attract the level of talent that we wanted, because their needs were now a lot different than they used to be. The times, they were a-changin'.
Mental health can cover a wide range of conditions – some of the common ones are depression, anxiety, OCD, stress, eating disorders, to name just a few. Some of these will represent themselves clearly and some will not. Some people will openly speak about these conditions and some will not. Some people will easily identify that their mental health is suffering, while others will brush it off. We are all different and we all have different outlooks, personalities, reactions, knowledge and thoughts about topics such as this. With a diverse team at GSM, it is important to realise this.
As employers, it is vital that we understand what mental health is and how it can impact on our team, now more than ever. During the last 14 months of lockdown many of us have been working from home continually, often not seeing anyone for weeks at a time. As a forward-thinking practice, we have tried to instil processes and a support system so that we can all keep in touch and look out for one another, but there are always things that can be improved upon. We have undertaken regular staff surveys to assess wellbeing and gauge opinion, held regular firm wide meetings and tried to nurture a team environment in a remote working world. We encouraged everyone to get out and about into nature by devising micro team challenges. Not only did this breed healthy competition, it kept us communicating together and forced us to get some fresh air.
After battling through this extended lockdown, the end appears to be in sight. What does that mean for the future of office-based work? How will we feel about going back to the office on a part-time or full-time basis – and will that unleash a new round of anxiety or concern?
What have you put in place to better support the mental health of your colleagues? I would love to hear!
P.S. we are also recruiting for the next GSM trainee, so I look forward to being educated further – all details can be found on our website (www.gsmaccountants.co.uk/about-us/careers)
Written by Robert Smith (Partner)