I want my company to look after our people

“Our people are our greatest asset.”

You’ve heard that one before, right? Hell, you’ve probably said it. But what does it really mean? In many cases in our industry, our people are literally an asset that we sell. If you’re running your business as a service and selling hourly rates, then they really are an asset and you need to protect them at all costs. Even if your business model isn’t charge by the hour or day, you’re relying on your people to solve complex problems, persuade someone somewhere to buy something, or create new answers to old questions.  

To do this effectively, we’re not just talking about people and numbers. We’re talking about hearts and minds. When it comes to any physical condition, we pack people off home, tell them to rest up and to come back when they’re up to working. We’re not monsters after all!

So how come we’re not as forgiving on their minds? The mental muscle that we need in tip-top condition above all else. In the mentally healthy study we ran in 2018 we were able to quantify what we already knew – we put our people and ourselves under severe pressure and it’s taking its toll. The long hours, the unrealistic deadlines, the ‘world-first’ briefs, and the lack of control over our schedules has over half of us experiencing mild to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety.  

Too often, we use fruit bowls, cafeterias, coffee, weekly yoga, personal training and team drinks as a proxy for a better culture that will stimulate a mentally healthier workplace – hopefully. They’re nice to have of course. But they’re only the tip of the iceberg. These ‘perks’ only really address 5-10% of work activities.

The activities actually affecting your people  are those concerned with the work itself. How well are your people rewarded? How often to they receive feedback? Do they feel that they’re progressing? Do they feel valued? Do they have autonomy and respect? Get these elements right and they will eclipse any marginal good done by offering the perks (don’t take them away though, they’re still worth getting out of bed for).

You may have been expecting our first set of recommended resources to be mental health programs and training. Let’s go back a step first. If you haven’t already, get into the details of our MentallyHealthy18 survey. We found job satisfaction can have a major impact on your mental health at work. Then read Mckinsey’s guide to making work meaningful.

Making work meaningful: A leader's guide

Recognise good work, reduce anonymity, help people understand their impact – it’s all in Mckinsey’s guide to creating a more meaningful workplace.

Mentally Healthy 2018 Research

Our inaugural study into the mental health of the creative, media and marketing industry. Essential reading to understand the  challenges we’re facing.

There are some great articles out there on how to create more meaning at work. We’ve tried to collect a lot of them. Here are a few of our favourites, but if you know of others, please send them in.

“When more than half of their waking hours are spent trying to make your business successful, don’t you owe them something in return? ”

Looking after your business

There are some very real reasons for making mental health a priority in your business.

Firstly, there’s a certain duty of care for maintaining a safe and healthy environment for the people that give up time away from their friends and family to help your business succeed. Secondly, a mentally healthier business is more productive and in general, more profitable.

Having a duty of care when it comes to your employees is a good start. If you haven’t already, read and adopt our Minimum Standards as part of the prioritisation of mental health in your business. We observed some worrying results when it came to the stigma around mental health in our industry. There seemed to be a generational disconnect between older male leaders and the younger members of our industry.

This is a problem, because 1 in 4 of people seeking help for what they’re going through… are seeking it at work. Luckily, there are more and more resources available for you to utilise and get support as a business leader.

Black Dog Institute specialise in creating tailored programs for workplaces with everything from how to grow a resilient organisation to managing for team wellbeing. If you’re ready to invest in formal training programs, it’s worth considering this advice from Headsup on what to check for in choosing a mental health services provider.

Ensure that the training:

  • is evidence-based
  • involves and specifically targets employees (and their differing training needs) at every level (ie. Corporate and boards; Managers and supervisors; Human resources and health and safety professionals; frontline workers
  • targets any identified workforce risks and current workforce issues
  • provides an opportunity to raise awareness of employer-provided health and wellbeing strategies
  • is part of a broader workplace strategy to address health and wellbeing and to foster an open and supportive culture towards mental health

The training facilitator should:

  • be an appropriately qualified and experienced professional person
  • have suitable experience and capability in providing engaging workplace training or facilitation to a wide range of participants and either
  • mental health qualifications (for example, psychology, occupational therapy or social work) and 2 years related clinical or workplace experience
  • or
  • 5 years professional experience related to mental health in the workplace and the ability to demonstrate a strong understanding of the impact of mental health problems for both the individual and the workplace
  • have excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • be skilled to respond effectively to participant personal disclosures both during training, and in post-workshop discussions, and to seek debriefing where required

Secondly, creating a mentally healthier workplace has real productivity and financial benefits for your business. The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (a government funded initiative including the likes of Beyond Blue, Black Dog, Safe Work Australia and SANE Australia) has researched and outlined the business case for workplaces. You can watch their video below.

If you have longer, you can watch this 60 minute discussion on the facts and fallacies of mentally healthier workplaces hosted by Safe Work Australia. It makes some interesting points, including the fact that policies will only get you so far. Evaluating culture is a truer test of improving mental health.

In the Mentally Healthy Change Group, we’ve also begun to look at the specific impact and opportunity for businesses in the creative. media and marketing industry. Sean Hall, an original member of the change group and founder of Energx has been working on a mental health ROI calculator.  By plugging in the number of leaders, other staff and their salaries in your business, you can get an idea of the costs of sleep deprivation, stress, disengagement, and presenteeism. While not a comprehensive evaluation, it’s enough to open your eyes to how much better off your business could be if you address some of these things.

“Policies are a good start, but evaluating the mental health impact of processes, relationships and culture will have a deeper, more sustainable effect.”

What now?

Create a workplace Mental Health Strategy.  Here’s a “how-to” from Headsup

Sign the Mentally-Healthy Minimum Standards

Make mental health in your business a priority, invest in initiatives and results and listen to your people.

“Whatever you do, do something. The time is ripe to make an investment into mental health for the sake of your people AND your business.”

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