This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, and as I look at the plethora of headlines and social media posts promoting the cause, I am struck by just how far we have come. The issue of mental health and wellbeing is firmly on the agenda of both organisations and government – with businesses across every sector supporting new initiatives to promote workplace wellbeing and the World Health Organisation releasing guidelines on how to improve mental health in the workplace for the very first time. The truth is, the wellbeing of our employees should be a priority – not just this week, but all year round. Our people are the lifeblood of our organisations and looking after them is not only the right thing to do, but also critical to business success.
The harsh reality of our current economic situation and the lingering effect of the pandemic means that more often than not, teams are increasingly stretched – and work-related stress and experiences of burnout are at a record high. A recent campaign from the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities found that over two-thirds of the British workforce experience the ‘Sunday scaries’, with a lack of sleep and looming to-do lists causing building anxiety at the prospect of starting the working week. Of course, for many across the service industry, the role is 24/7 and work-related anxiety is not limited to Sundays alone, but the principle remains – and leaders have a responsibility to be mindful of the mounting pressure being placed on their people to deliver and provide them with relevant support.
Promoting staff health and wellbeing is critical not only to a happy and healthy workforce, but also to the financial success of our businesses and economy. Our research shows a clear link between employee satisfaction and financial results. Not to mention, an estimated 12bn workdays are lost each year due to staff depression and anxiety, costing many businesses millions of pounds in lost productivity.
Terms such as ‘Quiet Quitting’ and ‘the Great Resignation’ have been much discussed in recent years, but the truth is they all boil down to one fundamental truth – an unhappy, unsatisfied workforce or at least a lack of genuine engagement with the organisation, its purpose and in many cases the impact of not-so-great management.
For those in the service industry, in particular – the spiralling cost of living crisis presents not only a challenge to work-related stress, but a dangerous and worrying rise in instances of abusive behaviour faced whilst performing their roles.
The most recent polling on our ongoing Service with Respect campaign – which we will release in more detail in the coming days – found that 45% of frontline service workers have experienced hostility from customers in the past 6 months. This is a rise of 10 percentage points from February this year, as customers under increasing financial strain take out their frustrations. Such instances have led to many reporting having suffered mental health issues – with reports ranging from loss of sleep and motivation to anxious thoughts and vivid flashbacks.
If we are to successfully survive the storm ahead – both as an economy and as a society – we must all stand up and do more to protect and support our people.
Whether it’s encouraging staff to take regular breaks, introducing new sets of training to ensure employees are prepared for the increased volume and complexity of cases coming their way or taking a step back to ensure time is spent on the right things, not more things. As leaders, we have a responsibility to create a culture of care in our organisations, leading from the top down to ensure that everyone from the CEO to the frontline feels supported. In doing so, we’ll create a healthier environment, and a more prosperous future for us all.