World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day takes place on 10th October every year, and aims to spread awareness and eliminate the stigma still attached to discussions around mental health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million work days are lost each year in the UK due to mental health problems, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. With this in mind, five technology executives come together to discuss how they promote good mental health in their organisations.

Get with the times: reducing the stigma

 Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal expresses his frustration at the continued stigma around conversations about mental health.

“Despite increased focus and efforts, we are still a long way from regarding or treating mental and physiological health as the same. We need to help to reduce the secrecy and stigma surrounding mental health issues, encourage employees to step forward if they are having mental health problems, and make employers reconsider their own attitudes to mental health related illnesses.

“Organisations should take note of forward-thinking attitudes when it comes to mental health – take Olark, a US-based tech company: one of its employees made a bold move to explain her absence from work by highlighting her own focus on mental health. The company’s CEO got involved. Not only did he praise her for setting such a noteworthy example, he thanked her for reminding him of the importance of using sick days for mental health and helping to remove the stigma associated with mental health.”

Always-on culture: not what it’s cracked up to be?

 “The latest agile working technology offers us a myriad of possibilities to communicate and collaborate,” explains Jude Mott, Product Director at Six Degrees. “However, the ‘always-on’ working culture that today’s technology facilitates can have a detrimental effect on our ability to focus and take time to look after our mental wellbeing. Fortunately, there are steps we can all take to improve our mental health in the fast-paced workplace of today.

“If you’re struggling to focus at work, consider managing your notifications to avoid distractions and booking focus time in your calendar. Many of us habitually check our emails during the evening and weekends, but our time away from the office is essential to helping us relax and recharge. Set clear boundaries, and remember that ‘out of office’ really does mean out of office – those emails, meetings and tasks will still be there when you get back.”

Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise talks about how this ‘always-on’ culture also affects IT teams specifically.

“IT teams are under constant pressure to respond immediately to any technical issues or cyber threats, and resolve these quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, it all contributes to a stressful working environment, which is why this World Mental Health Day, business leaders should take the time to consider their employees’ mental wellbeing, and implement measures or tools that can help ease some of the strain. For example, investing in solutions designed for efficiency, such as data management, can help to streamline time management. Instead of having to allocate precious time to sift through ever-increasing pools of unstructured data, thanks to tools like these that can do that, IT teams can use that time more productively to benefit the business, and feel less anxious in the process.”

The latest tools: how can technology help?

“The bottom line is that, as an employer, we can start to change how mental health issues are managed,” explains Jen Locklear, Chief Talent Officer at ConnectWise. “While it’s true that people have huge struggles and daily battles with stress, anxiety, and depression, more and more resources are becoming available to employers that can help our teams. We need to help our people.

“At ConnectWise, we’ve recently implemented Ginger.io which offers behavioural health support to our colleagues, 24/7. We have an engagement tool, TINYpulse, that has helped us to work with our people on issues that are impacting them – anonymously. We also offer financial planning help, because we know that is such a huge source of stress for people.

“What it comes down to for me is that I want to work for an employer who understands the significance of mental health. Not just for the purposes of the company’s productivity, but for the overall health of our people and the community. While it is not our obligation to offer these tools, I am grateful for companies like ours that offer these resources for people who are more than worth this investment.”

Christophe Clerc-Renaud, Senior Sales Director EMEA at Ergotron also highlights the tools that businesses can implement to look after their employees better.

“In recent years many businesses have introduced solutions to try and combat stress, including providing healthy food in the office, or offering complimentary gym memberships and flexible working hours. Whilst these benefits have their own merits, what’s arguably more important is that businesses consider how they can make working hours more productive, comfortable, and flexible – all contributing to better physical and mental wellbeing.

“Initiatives that promote movement in the workplace are a sure-fire way of helping staff-members feel happier and healthier. Many companies are now investing in products and solutions that can be tailored to individuals’ needs – for example, ergonomic office furniture or work-from-home schemes – all of which can make a huge difference to an employee’s productivity and their mental wellbeing. Other factors like a change of scene in the workplace, or simply standing up to work rather than sitting down, are extremely beneficial for workers – standing more can increase energy and productivity levels, lower stress and improve employees’ moods. Humans are not designed to be sedentary all day, so ensuring that employees are working as comfortably as possible, incorporating ergonomic principles to achieve this, will lead to better physical and mental wellbeing, and ultimately improved productivity.”