In recent years working environments have changed in ways that may have been unimaginable generations ago. These changes in technology, communications and infrastructure have brought extra opportunities for collaboration and professional development. But sadly, the way most workplaces deal with employee mental health has been neglected.
Mental health and productivity
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that lost productivity resulting from depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental disorders, is estimated to cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year.
Other research, a UK OnePoll survey of 2,000 employed adults commissioned by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and Bauer Media UK, recently revealed that, on average, 42 per cent of employees feel comfortable discussing prevalent physical conditions, compared with just 14 per cent who feel able to talk about common mental health issues. The findings show that there must be a fundamental change to guarantee that mental and physical health are treated equally in the workplace.
Many factors influence the mental health of employees including organisational issues, poor communication and management practices, limited participation in decision-making, long or inflexible working hours and lack of team cohesion. Bullying and psychological harassment are also well-known causes of work-related stress and related mental health problems.
A recent survey by workplace consultant Peldon Rose, showed that a quarter of employees (26 per cent) feel that their organisations do nothing to help their employees manage stress in the workplace. How can FMs help the situation?
In the Peldon Rose survey almost half of workers (49 per cent) said they wanted a yoga and meditation room and exercise facilities (50 per cent) to help to tackle workplace stress. With FMs' know-how they could allocate a room with appropriate ventilation, space and lighting for yoga and meditation classes. They would also have the means and knowledge to advertise such events throughout the company.
Mental health issues are often the forgotten health and safety issue. Communication is key - not just between staff and management but also colleagues and teams need to have conversations about mental health. FMs are in a prime position to influence these conversations. They can also enforce any company policies on mental health that may exist in workplaces but are not necessarily enacted. For example, one technology company in the USA, has a 'kindness' policy which seeks to ensure all workers are treated well, which influences the culture in the whole work environment.
Most individuals believe their workplace environment is important for their mental health and well-being. Yet, for example, half of respondents to the Peldon Rose survey, state that their working environment does not have a positive effect on their mental health (51 per cent) and well-being (49 per cent).
FMs can make sure people feel good at work by ensuring workspaces are suitable for employees. For example, facilities managers can deal with noise disruption by setting up cubicles where employees can work with less disturbance and consequently get less stressed. This can also give workers some quiet and privacy if their work tasks need it.
Work more closely with HR
FMs could work more closely with HR teams to introduce a physical cut-off to the working environment. For example, an Amsterdam design studio winches their desks up to the ceiling at 6pm, to stop staff from working late, and allow the space to be used for games, exercise, or activities.