On 7th February it is National Time to Talk day, a chance to focus on encouraging everyone to speak openly about their mental health.
Building a culture where employees feel comfortable talking about mental health-related matters, such as financial worries, needs commitment from the whole company - from senior board members to every individual colleague. And it’s not a one-off activity either. To be really effective, everyone needs to make sure they’ve got time to talk, every day.
Line managers’ close day-to-day relationship with their team should mean they are in an excellent position to spot when colleagues are struggling and to offer help. But Neyber’s DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2018 research showed that only 5% of employees would feel comfortable proactively going to their line manager for help if they were struggling with money worries.
There could be many reasons for that, such as not wanting to admit to being in debt in case it reflects poorly on them as a professional. However, Neyber’s report showed that 20% of employees have felt depressed as a result of money worries, and 26% have lost sleep as a result. That’s likely to have a clear knock-on effect on an employee’s ability to cope and their behaviour at work.
But line managers don’t always come ready-equipped with the skills and experience to start conversations about wellbeing. They’ll need training both in knowing how and when to help colleagues share concerns, and what they should do to enable employees to get the help they need. Managers are often under extreme pressure themselves from work and personal commitments, so need to know where they too can go for support.
The HR department isn’t employees’ first port of call when they have personal or financial concerns either. In fact, Neyber’s research showed that 49% of HR professionals don’t feel it’s part of their remit to help staff with money worries. However, as we’ve seen above, financial concerns affect staff in ways that will have a very clear effect on their performance at work.
In addition to making the time to talk, HR teams can help employees in a variety of ways. That ranges from building a benefits programme that includes financial education, debt management and saving for retirement, through to playing an active part in building openness around money and mental health.
Creating an inclusive, supportive wellbeing culture starts at the top. That means involving board members not just as budget-holders, but as active champions of wellbeing. That could include senior leaders taking part in steering committees if time allows, creating videos that describe their personal experiences of wellbeing, or simply sharing their enthusiasm for what’s on offer in the company.
As well as support from the board, a successful wellbeing strategy also needs to be driven by employees. Encouraging volunteers from across the workforce to have responsibility for building, promoting and helping to evaluate the effectiveness of a wellbeing programme can help to make sure it remains relevant.
When it comes to National Time to Talk day, wellbeing champions can lead the way. That could include wearing a ribbon or badge to show they are willing and available to talk, and by creating an environment that means employees know it’s OK to be open about their mental health.
Wellbeing champions can also help to break down stigmas. Some parts of the workforce may still feel talking about mental health is a sign of weakness or feel that the workplace isn’t the right environment to discuss personal issues. Involving their peers and team members as ‘champions’ can help to break down those barriers.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)
Not everyone will feel confident opening up at work if they are struggling with concerns such as personal debt. Offering staff access to an EAP provides another way in which they can get help or talk to someone.
Aggregated feedback from an EAP provider can also help HR and employers to understand the types of issues that staff are facing at work.
Whatever your position in the workplace, you can make a change to colleagues’ mental health. Simply taking the time to ask a colleague how they are – and then listening to the answer – could be the start of a crucial conversation.