Workplace and Mental Health
By Yvonne Wilcox
11th September 2023
The World Health Organisation estimates a quarter of us will experience some form of mental ill-health in our lifetime.
However, working in the PR profession means you are more than twice as likely to experience poor mental health in the past year than other professions (91% of PR professionals vs 41% across all professional industries - Workplace Mental Health Audit 2022). Whilst 58% of PR professionals stated an overwhelming workload is a source of workplace stress, only 22% took time off to recover. This is down from a quarter the year before with most stating - ‘it wasn’t bad enough to take a day off work.’
Interestingly, almost two thirds say that working from home has improved their mental well being.
Jon Gerlis from the CIPR said “Embracing a work culture that celebrates work-life balance requires proactive approaches from business leaders. It also requires them to reject the normalisation of perpetual high stress and focus on the steep human and financial costs of neglecting mental health. By taking action, respecting diversity, and nurturing talent, the PR industry can forge a more positive and sustainable path forward."
Speaking to Professor Neil Greenberg, specialist in adult, occupational and forensic psychiatry and Professor of Defence Mental Health, he has some very interesting insights.
Hybrid and WFH
Our new world of hybrid and WFH (working from home) “can be challenging and useful at the same time as there are pros and cons to all types of working. For people who really didn’t like the office, then WFH has been/remains a saviour. However, a sudden, forced change in one’s way of working can often be difficult to deal with.” Managers also need to put some thought into how to do things differently as “It can be hard to manage from a distance, to support and keep an eye on workers’ workloads, however, just as with face to face working it’s good to have one-to-one meetings with your team. So managers of remote workers need to adapt their way of working as well.” says Professor Neil Greenberg along with some other thoughts and suggestions…
Support Each Other
One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to “make sure you have regular, positive interactions with colleagues so you can support each other”. Also it is vitally important to “actively work on your relationship with your manager,” the whole team will be more resilient if workers feel comfortable approaching their managers. This is especially true if you need to have a difficult discussion.
When you have a feeling of becoming overwhelmed don’t wait until you sink… instead speak to someone, ideally as early as you can. Ask them for a brief block of time, rather than grabbing someone who does not have the time to listen properly. Then ask them politely to hear you out, perhaps giving you ten minutes or so to explain your situation before they try to help you problem solve. As a manager himself Prof Greenberg suggests that if you listen well then the solutions will arise. “But don’t jump in with solutions too soon. People often want to feel listened to as much as they want solutions.”
Neurodiversity vs Mental Health
“The term Neurodiversity encompasses a number of clinical, and non clinical, mental health. conditions. It will be no surprise that everyone is not the same. Neurodiversity, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may affect up to 1 in 5 people and some aspects of neurodiversity can be a distinct advantage such as people with ADHD being able to ‘hyperfocus’ or people ASD paying particular attention to detail. A good team can take account of how different we all are and ideally ensure that someones role plays to their strengths whilst treating everyone fairly and reasonably.”
Mental Health and Physical Health
“Our physical health varies and we all have good and bad days. The same goes with our mental health. If health is persistently, or severely, poor then we should first try self help i.e. stop over drinking, take some time out, reconnect with loved ones. If this does not help, then we should ideally seek some professional help. Sometimes being away from the routine of work, and the support of one’s colleagues, is not always good for you. Many people’s mental health and self-esteem come, in part at least, from our work. As a manager, you should encourage self-care and maybe consider giving colleagues an hour each week to connect socially to foster social bonds between team members which will help bolster their mental health.”
Creating a Healthy Team
“It is vital that organisations invest in their supervisor and junior managers so that they are able to identify which team members might have mental health problems and feel confident to talk to them about their mental health. Studies show that even relatively brief active listening and mental health skills training can make a really big difference. This is quite different to Mental Health First Aid courses which have not been shown to have a positive impact at work.”
“Create a strong team, with good connections, with structured peer support and psychologically savvy managers who are confident to speak with staff about their mental health.”
“Create social opportunities for people to interact - such as coffee and cake on Tuesday afternoon.” Count me in - just off to put the kettle on.
For more information on a range of topics on mental health and resources from the CIPR please visit https://cipr.co.uk/CIPR/Our_work/Policy/Mental_Health.aspx