Mental Health in the workplace, an Interview with Michael LIoyd
Mental health is a journey, never a destination. These words came from Michael Lloyd a mental health practitioner, who delivers a positive message across multiple brands and businesses in the UK.
Curious on his perspective and expertise on mental wellbeing in the workplace?
Who is Michael LIoyd?
I am the founder of the Workplace Mental Health Charter.
We’re based in Cheshire helping all types of different businesses in the UK to create mentally healthy workplaces.
We work with anything from small organizations, with one employee to our largest member with an excess of 10,000 employees. Working across lots of different industries irrespective of size or job type. Ultimately our aim is to try and get as many of them talking about mental health in the workplace to ensure everyone understands:
We all have mental health, just like we have physical health.
Unfortunately, when we talk about mental health a lot of people tend to go to the negative. People tend to think about the illnesses such as anxiety, depression, suicide, but actually what we’re trying to achieve is awareness that we all can have good and poor mental health at times, ups and downs in our life, and every one of us deals with these challenges differently.
We’re trying to get businesses to start talking about creating 12 months of mental health awareness, not just awareness days or weeks which we currently see. We offer training to business to support them in their journey to improve mental health in the workplace.
Q1: Why did you start the Mental Health Charter?
When dealing with my own mental health challenges I realised that I was searching for help and I didn’t know where to turn or who to ask. I then realised that actually, nobody really wanted to have a conversation. I didn’t really understand what I was experiencing. So I didn’t know how to respond to it.
I have worked in HR and training all my life and that’s when I realised that actually there’s an opportunity here for businesses to really understand when somebody is not doing too well at work or at home and may be struggling. Getting a better understanding of how they’re feeling and supporting them through their experiences can make a huge difference to that employee on a day-to-day basis. Work could be their safe space to talk.
At times I went to a really bad place with my mental health, I attempted to help myself but found Google to provide only limited information and support.
That’s why I wanted to create the Mental Health Charter, bringing everything together.
Training is included. Awareness is included. We‘ve got an app for all of our members that they can download and have access to health and wellbeing tips at home or at work. The most important thing was that all elements of support were affordable and in one place.
Q2: What does mental health in the workplace mean to you? How would you describe a mentally healthy workplace?
Mental health is part of our overall health, and it comes hand in hand with physical health. It’s about how we learn to cope with the ups and downs in our everyday life and can really make a huge difference.
Every single person will cope with those ups and downs very differently depending on their life experiences which can stem as far back as childhood. We need to remember mental health is a journey, never a destination.
We could be experiencing great mental health today. Eating well, exercising, getting outside, connecting with nature, reading books, and socialising with friends and family. Everybody has helpful coping strategies that will be unique to them, it’s about exploring the things that you enjoy, and actually doing them for you.
Don’t see it as a selfish activity because being mentally healthy means that you’re open to have lots of conversations surrounding this topic, which can only be positive.
Mental health in the workplace is about creating an open conversation where people feel like they can talk about the struggles that we all have as humans.
The problem is when you start talking about it at work, people automatically think “these people are going to need some time off work. Or will be too much of a hassle.”
To create a mentally healthy workplace will mean that your employees turn up for work – even if they’re struggling – as they know there is a safe place to talk. Therefore they are still at work, still doing the work that’s required of them, but actually feeling supported. And that’s the biggest thing about creating a supportive environment.
Q3: What are common challenges that affect mental well-being at work?
I think the biggest challenge we have when we talk to businesses is that people think that if we start talking about mental health within the workplace, then everyone will say they’ve got mental health challenges, which is incorrect.
We know that 1 in 5 within a workplace will experience mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, stress. Meaning it is actually very common.
I think if we look back to probably 5, 10 years ago, it was all about the benefits that you offered to your employees. It was all about how many holidays you gave. If you offered a gym membership or if you had a fruit bowl or free teas and coffee for staff.
But now among employees there’s a big change in what they’re looking for. They are mainly looking for support in the workplace along with a healthy work life balance as you spend a lot of time at work and knowing that you’ve got that support from a physical or mental health perspective can be really powerful.
By signing the mental health chart, you’re showing employees that your business is committed to having a mentally healthy workplace.
Q4: Is there a specific group of people who is more vulnerable when it comes to mental health?
It can affect us all in different ways. The way we deal with it can depend on our own personal life experiences. When it comes to serious mental health illnesses, suicide, for example, it is evidentially higher in men.
Data shows its 75% males to 25% females and the reason why it’s higher in men is because they’re less likely to reach out for support and help because of the stigma associated with it, such as “man up, don’t cry, don’t show your feelings, don’t show your emotions.” This prevents men from talking and seeking early intervention.
When it comes to anxiety depressions, the lower end of poor mental health, it is higher in women, and those within the LGBTQ+ communities along with asylum seekers, armed forces and young people as well. Again, that’s because for example within LGBTQ+ communities it is shown that they are regularly fighting the feelings inside themselves and the stigma that’s associated with being part of that community. And not being accepted can cause mental health strains on their lives.
If you’d like to learn more about Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace, check out our article.
Q5: What are the effects of mentally unhealthy workers within a business?
Sickness/absence accounts for over 10 billion pounds a year to the UK economy due to people calling in sick.
At the same time the issue you’ve got is what we call presenteeism, where you will have people turn up to work, but actually not doing the work that’s required. So for example, if you used to make 100 calls a day, you start making 20 calls a day.
So it’s all about creating that mentally healthy environment, removing the stigma, allowing conversations around mental health within the workplace and having people trained in mental health support.
We will not actually get a true figure of sickness/absence associated with mental health as many will just call in sick saying they are not well, when actually it was a mental health related absence. However, if you’ve got mental health first aiders within your workplace, if you’ve got a mentally healthy environment where you’re allowed to discuss mental health, your employees are going to turn up to work because they will feel more supported at work than they perhaps would at home. And that’s important.
Q6: Do you have any success stories to share where you realised that your movement truly creates a lasting social impact?
Thankfully there are many examples. The first being connected to the training we offer as this covers presenteeism, where an employee is present, but perhaps not doing what’s required of them. A lady who attended one of our courses said: “I’ve recently identified somebody in our office who I have now identified I need to speak to regarding their mental health because I can clearly see there’s a difference and a change in that person which hopefully I can help with.”
Secondly, encouraging employees to take 10 together, i.e. take 10 minutes out of your day to look out for a colleague and see if there’s any changes in their behaviour. If you’re seeing changes in their behaviour, that is an opportunity to start a conversation with them and really delve into how they’re feeling and see if there’s any support that you can give them. There is a specific company that is a member of the Charter where we’ve trained everybody in mental health awareness, which has reduced their sickness rates by 26%.
Thirdly, the Mental Health Awareness Training course helps build resilience within the individual to make them understand how they can cope with the ups and downs of everyday life, and how we can support others on this journey.
Thank you to Michael Lloyd for this incredible interview. If you’d like to understand how your work around health and wellbeing in the workplace can be linked to sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals, please do reach out. We’re right here to help you on this very important journey.