Through year-round campaigning and its pivotal annual event Time to Talk, the Time to Change movement has improved millions of people’s attitudes towards mental health. With the last ever Time to Talk day taking place on this Thursday (February 4th), our Wellbeing Manager Kerry B Mitchell looks at why talking is so important, and urges employers to ensure they are really listening:
Time to Talk is a profound message delivered via a simple concept: one day a year where individuals, groups and businesses are encouraged to have open conversations about mental health. It’s certainly had a huge impact on destigmatising the subject, and promoting more conversations on the other 364 days of the year, too.
It’s something which many employers have embraced as a very visible way to show they are doing something about mental health, a crucial issue which is one of the key employee concerns – especially as one in four of the work-force is likely to experience mental ill health during any given year1. It’s amazing to see companies encouraging teams to talk openly about the subject, which years ago was completely swept under the carpet – but when their staff talk, are employers really listening?
Is Your Door Open?
In lots of cases now, we are talking about a metaphorical door – the rise of remote and flexible working, and the ongoing Government calls for work to take place at home where possible, means often managers and their teams are physically separated.
Around 35% of employees have been working exclusively at home this January2, that’s a huge proportion who are having no face-to-face contact with their manager. It can be difficult enough to start a conversation about mental health in the workplace anyway – but with those geographical barriers in place, and fewer opportunities for one-to-ones, managers now need to be hyper-aware about actively promoting their availability for a chat to their teams.
How Are You?
We often ask ‘how are you?’ in both work and personal settings, expecting the standard answer of ‘I’m fine’. That’s why, when genuinely enquiring about a person’s wellbeing, we are all encouraged to ‘ask twice’3. That second question may just give your team member the green light to open up if they need to.
What’s Your Response?
As an employer, a team member letting you know they are experiencing mental ill health shouldn’t send you into a panic about how you should respond. Ignoring the problem because you’re not sure what to do simply doesn’t align with the ethical duty you have towards the wellbeing of your employees, so how can you prepare now to ensure you’re able to respond appropriately?
- Does your organisation have a Workplace Wellbeing Strategy which sets out the support available to employees? If not, you can find out more about developing and implementing an effective strategy here: paycare.org/wellbeing-strategy-whitepaper
- Are there members of your management team trained in Mental Health First Aid – meaning they know about symptoms, signposting and how to react in a crisis: visit org/MHFA to find out more about what the training involves.
- If they need someone to talk to about a specific issue, do you have an Employee Assistance Programme in place (more information about what an EAP is can be found here: org/wellbeing-bundle/my-helpline) Or if they’d like an appointment with an NHS-trained doctor then what about a GP App (what is a GP app? Visit paycare.org/MyPocketGP to find out)?
What Are They Really Saying?
Of course, a team member may not feel able to approach their manager if they’re experiencing a dip in their mental health – so that’s why it’s so important that employers are on the ball when it comes to picking up on subtle cues in the conversations they’re having – and noticing changes too.
Perhaps they’ve mentioned struggling to sleep, drinking more alcohol, losing their appetite, a problem they’re having at home, or feeling demotivated. Perhaps they’re missing deadlines, taking lots of days off sick, or just don’t quite seem themselves.
All of these can be attributed to different reasons, and of course being in the middle of a global pandemic means it can be difficult to tell what’s linked to the extra stress Coronavirus has caused and what might be a sign of worsening wellbeing.
That’s why setting aside Time to Talk, not just on February 4th but all-year round, is so important. Equally important is ensuring you are really listening.
Despite this being the last planned event, the message of Time to Talk Day will live on beyond 2021, as people continue to recognise the importance of supporting one another for years to come 💬😊🧡