With November being the month dedicated to raising worldwide awareness about men’s health issues, including mental health, now is a great time to discuss its prevalence in the workplace. Did you know that 1 in 8 men in the UK are currently battling a mental health problem? Of that, 32% of them have said work was responsible for their illness, compared to just 14% of women reporting the same concern.
This stems from a huge variety of reasons, including loneliness, burnout, pressure, anxiety and more as a result of societal expectations, job insecurity, long work hours, demanding work pressure and bullying.
The real danger in these issues, however, is the fear to speak up or seek help — a problem which proves to be much more prevalent in men than women. Research shows that 36% of men think they could be held back from promotion at work if they mentioned a problem they were facing, and 40% would prefer to try and hide any issues from their boss out of fear that it might negatively impact their career. As a result, only 14% report problems affecting their mental health to their manager or member of HR.
This causes detrimental societal problems, including physical and mental health issues like alcoholism, drug use and suicide. On a workplace level, this translates to huge costs for businesses, for instance totalling to $1 trillion a year in lost productivity for US firms. Plus, research also shows that the associated absenteeism results in 91 million workdays lost in UK and 400 million lost in the US.
What can employers do to combat this issue? With lack of communication being one of the key drivers here, a good first step is to foster an open, inclusive workplace culture where colleagues truly feel they can speak up openly to each other and management. Make room for regular feedback sessions that are two-way, rather than top-down, and ensure that hard work does not go unrecognized and unrewarded. On that note, effectively training employees of all seniority levels on how to provide valuable and constructive feedback is also key to avoiding negative feelings or demotivation. These steps can significantly boost the sense of trust and belonging an employee feels with your organization, thereby combating loneliness and depression through strengthened workplace relationships.
It’s also important to enforce a sense of work-life balance to combat the high-levels of stress and burnout employees face from feeling pressured to work around the clock. Enable this through workplace tools that allow employees to set their own work hours, for instance disabling notifications after a certain time or during holidays. It’s important that management also communicate the importance of respecting these work hours consistently, as it will help set the tone for the entire organization and ease the pressure employees feel to instantly reply to emails or constantly be on the lookout for tasks assigned to them long after work hours.
Anxiety and depression are also likely to occur when an employee feels a lack of purpose or control in their job. To combat this, empower your staff by equipping them with the right workplace tools for them to achieve their goals efficiently. At the same time, encourage constant learning and skill-building in a healthy way by making workplace knowledge transparent and constantly accessible, so as to build an employee’s long-term growth in the company with a sense of motivation and purpose rather than pressure.
Unlocking these changes to your workplace is truly a win-win for everyone involved. Reducing the risk for mental health issues means your employees will perform better in their roles, see an improved day-to-day work experience and reduce the risk of associated physical problems. Meanwhile, employers will benefit from the boost in productivity and engagement. In fact, research shows that for every £1 a business invests in mental health training programmes, they can see a return of up to £10.
If you feel these aspects can still be improved in your workplace, now is a great time to take action. With men rarely willing to speak up about these issues openly, it’s crucial that organizations are proactive and take the first steps to prevent these risk-factors even if they may not seem prevalent on the surface. This November, let’s work together to take care of the men in your workforce.