How promoting good employee mental health can drive staff motivation

With the UK’s workforce working harder than ever before and unemployment at its lowest level for some time, you’d think this would be a sign of businesses booming, right? Well, no…quite the opposite, actually. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, UK productivity has stagnated since the economic downturn. Labour productivity statistics for quarter two 2018, as measured by output per hour, grew by 1.4 per cent compared with the same quarter a year ago; and remains noticeably below the long-term trend observed before 2008 when productivity growth averaged nearly two per cent per year.

How promoting good employee mental health can drive staff motivation

So, what’s going on? Workers are clearly turning up and putting the hours in, but this isn’t translating into increased productivity or output. The answer to this contradiction lies in the wellbeing of the workforce. The increased need for businesses to remain productive and profitable is having a detrimental effect on employee physical and mental wellbeing which, in turn, is holding back their desire and motivation to do more.

Motivation is a state of mind

Although dealing with physical wellbeing in the workplace is commonplace, there is still something of a stigma around mental health – but the thing is, this really shouldn’t be the case; especially when we consider that more than 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/18 alone due to mental health-related illnesses, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s Labour Force Survey.

If people are mentally unwell or under strain, the desire to work harder or ‘go the extra mile’ will be diminished, too – leading us back to the issue of weakening productivity. This is where employers have a duty to bring mental health out into the open and ensure employees feel comfortable about sharing the problems they may be facing; and it’s not difficult either.

Make it visible

Organisations need to prioritise the fact that they understand the importance of positive mental wellbeing by encouraging a progressive environment where employees can speak up about their troubles without fear of judgement. With poor mental health being thought to affect up to one in six workers, it really is essential that businesses step up and take the lead by encouraging positive mental health.

Use notice boards, company intranets, team training days and personal one-to-ones to remind your workforce of opportunities they have where they can discuss their personal wellbeing confidentially, whether that be a local community event or a hotline number for counselling. The greater help you give to remove physiological barriers for your staff, the better the chance they’ll be more positively focussed on their jobs, increasing productivity.

Mix it up

Allow work-from-home days, a flexible workspace setting and the occasional office treat – mixing up the mundane even slightly can make a serious difference to those suffering with depression or simply feeling a little down by the repetitive nature of the working week.

If somebody seems demotivated, consider evaluating their responsibilities. They could be overworked, or perhaps it’s the complete opposite, and they need a new challenge. Treat your employees as individuals and involve them in creative decisions to keep up morale and productivity.

Take a personal approach

Try to communicate face-to-face with employees on a regular basis and take a personal approach. As the working day gets busier we often become guilty of leaving our communication to email, but this can be a recipe for miscommunication – so simply talking is often the best approach as it can encourage them to open-up about their issues. Of course, staff surveys, focus groups and review meetings all play their part, but don’t underestimate the value of asking your staff’s opinion in a more informal setting – it’s all part of making them feel respected, valued and engaged.

Although even the best boss in the world may not be able to cure everybody’s problems, a sympathetic and open approach is key to ensuring that you are doing all you can to support your staff. It may even make you a more desirable prospect to new recruits; with a study by MIND showing that 60 per cent of employees would feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing.

Iain Thompson, director of incentive and recognition, Sodexo Engage.

This article was provided by Sodexo Engage.

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