Employees | 7 MIN READ TIME

Managing mental health in work and in private time

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You’d have to be living on the moon not to know we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

Mass media have been transformational in so many ways. However, during periods when the news appears consistently bad, being always ‘in the know’ can feel like a curse rather than a blessing.

We had the financial crash, austerity, Brexit and then COVID-19. Then just as we emerge blinking from the pandemic, life throws us another curveball in the shape of rising energy, fuel and food prices.

People have a tendency to aggregate their worries and then project them forward. You may say, “I might be doing okay financially right now, but what will the situation be in six months’ time?”

This is what psychologists call ‘anticipatory anxiety’ – the fear of something before it even happens. It is a common phenomenon for many people on Sunday evenings. Our relaxed weekend feeling melts away as the working week appears on the horizon.

Mary Spillane, psychologist and mental health expert for the Headspace app, calls this the ‘Sunday scaries’. She explained: “Your brain can become conditioned to worry on a Sunday night, even if you don’t have a particularly stressful week.”

The annual cost of stress-related absence to UK business is £30bn

A general rise in anticipatory anxiety has been noted as people have returned to the office post-pandemic. Worries about rising costs are now adding to this. We might like nice surprises but we generally have a fear and anxiety about the unknown and what lies ahead.

For the most forward-thinking businesses, focusing on mental health in the workplace is no longer optional. They know that looking after the wellbeing of their people isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes sense from a business and productivity point of view.

Poor mental health among the workforce is a cost burden to business. It leads to more absence and poor performance. A happier and motivated team is a more productive one. The annual cost of stress-related absence to UK employers is approaching £30bn. Why would any employer not want to fix that?

No magic wands but there are solutions

Of course, business owners and managers do not possess magic wands. We all lead complex lives with multiple challenges. If one of your employees has financial worries, and another is dealing with a relationship break-up, or a family illness, you cannot magic away those problems.

Right now, the cost of living is rising. People are worried about paying their rent or mortgage, heating their home as winter approaches, filling up their car and putting food on the table. And they will be experiencing anticipatory anxiety about the months ahead.

Money worries are strongly associated with mental health issues. Data from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute reveals that in England alone, more than 1.5m people are experiencing both debt and mental health problems.

Its research found that almost half the people with problem debt are significantly more likely to experience mental health problems.

Those worries don’t disappear when people walk through the office door each morning. They can’t just put them on the coat hanger and forget about them. Mental health isn’t binary. People’s moods, anxieties and stress will ebb and flow. It is about how we manage them both collectively and individually.

Creating a positive culture and letting them know ‘you know’

Creating a working environment that feels welcoming, friendly, encouraging and positive creates a place where people feel valued and rewarded. You can also make a practical difference to people’s financial circumstances. Appreciate Business Services works with clients across multiple sectors to enable them to offer rewards and incentives.

There are all sorts of ways to help people plan for the future and alleviate some of that anticipatory anxiety. We’ve covered some immediate, easily accessible and affordable ones. People often feel less anxious when feeling like they have some measure of control and that’s only ever going to be a positive variable to influence when it comes to employee retention, attraction and productivity.

If you would like to discuss how Appreciate’s reward and recognition can work for your business, please email hello@appreciategroup.co.uk.