Radd Seiger, COO of Squid Networks takes a timely look at the importance of mental health in the workplace and beyond and the need to look after ourselves and others a little better.
Here at Squid Networks, one of our core values is caring. To us that means genuinely having each other’s backs and being in the corner of people we do business with and our customers.
MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
Pursuing business goals and chasing our personal economic dreams are ambitions which can be both satisfying and gratifying when they are achieved yet equally can come at considerable cost to health. Failure and fear of failure can be hard to bear. Many businesses claim to promote workplace well being but it can sometimes be difficult to achieve economic success whilst ensuring that everyone at work is as well as they can be.
Some of the UK’’s biggest businesses wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister last week urging her to follow through on a pledge that was made in the 2016 general election campaign to treat mental health in the workplace as importantly as physical health, something the government has failed to do so far. These measures would include updating health and safety legislation to require employers to provide first aid mental health training to managers and bringing in needs assessments for those affected by the illness. A government commissioned review estimates the cost to the economy as a result of conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress at between £74bn and £99bn a year.
A DIFFICULT TIME
But this article is focused on the real issue at hand, which is genuine human suffering. Unfortunately, the problem continues to grow and we are sadly in the midst of an epidemic of mental ill health. According to NHS England, 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health problems. In the workplace, the mental health charity Mind estimates that 1 in 2 suffer. Mental ill health is currently the single biggest cause of disability. To make matters worse, of those, only half talk to their employers about the problem. Fear, shame and job insecurity are some of the reasons we do not open up.
Governments of all political hues over the years have focused on investing in medical services for physical conditions, to the detriment of services for mental health problems. However, happily, the NHS is now investing a further £1.4 billion in mental health services as a result.
THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF LIFE
The only predictable thing in life is that it can be unpredictable. Child and adolescent mental health services are swamped by young people seeking help and many adults are facing stresses and strains caused by financial worries, bereavement, relationship difficulties and major illness amongst other concerns. Life can be tough at times. Building resilience is of course important and understanding that nothing is ever perfect in life is an important lesson to learn. Yet many suffer in silence, either unused or unwilling to share problems with friends, colleagues or employers that they are struggling. The thriving, bustling, go getting workplace can be an inspiring and energising place to be. However, it can also be a difficult environment that can take its toll. Beyond legislating to deal with the issue of mental health in the workplace, as a society we do not yet seem to have come to terms with the need to be able to be honest and open up about struggles we are having. Tackling that taboo it is suggested should be the real focus for us all as well as other taking other measures.
WE NEED TO DO BETTER
As employers, we need to understand that we need to do better at doing our bit to tackle the mental health problem.. At Squid Networks, we are not doctors or therapists. However, we are human beings and as we seek to deliver on our promises, to hit our targets and grow our business, caring means never doing so at the expense of what is really most important in life, which is good health and quality of life. We strongly believe caring means being aware of the possibility that our people and those that we interact with are having a difficult time. We check in with each other and are in our friends’ corners. We ask twice in response to the usual “Yeah, I’m fine”. We strive to be kind, understanding and compassionate. We have our eyes and ears to the ground in creating an environment that we are as sure as we can be that no one gets left behind. But most of all, we will not set about achieving our goals at the expense of a colleague’s health. We believe that we can achieve our goals through promoting practices that support good health and indeed that real success can only be achieved that way, when we all can enjoy the rewards of our hard work, and not suffer as a result of our efforts.
It is high time that the tide of mental ill health is turned in all corners of our society. Squid Networks stands shoulder to shoulder with all those good organisations out there doing their bit to turn the tide too. It’s time to talk.