19 June 2019 | Bradford Keen
"The humans are coming to the workplace," was the takeaway offered by Kendelle Tekstar, senior product manager at Acre Frameworks and host of a panel discussion entitled 'Where is the health agenda headed in 2019', which took place at the Facilities Show at Excel London this week.
Tekstar said this based on the words of her panellists, who called for a more humane understanding of mental health.
Part of the problem with the way mental health is spoken about is that it is thought of as mental illness, said Stacy Thomson, founder of The Performance Club. Organisations and people within them need to think of and discuss mental health not as an illness, but as the fundamental condition for human success and well-being.
"We need to be talking about how difficult our lives really are," said Thomson, as an active guard against the type of perfectionism society espouses and a means of countering a growing trend of our inability to manage ourselves.
People want their needs to be met instantly, and they want others to do it for them, said Thomson. The problem is not one of mental health, but a "human behavioural problem" inhibiting us from properly communicating and developing strong interpersonal relationships.
Thomson said that although as adults we are responsible for our actions, leaders should model the right behaviours such as self-awareness, mood control, and accepting and learning from failure for employees to emulate.
Fellow panellist Rob Stephenson, founder of InsideOut, also advocated the value of mental health being driven from the top down. Not only do leaders need to think about prevention rather than cure - he argued that prevention provides the biggest opportunities for organisations to help their people thrive - but they need to elevate the discussion of employee health and well-being on the corporate agenda. They should ask: "How are we valuing the health of employees," said Stephenson.
The resources are already available to make mental health matter, explained Thomson. Organisations spend money on staff training and apprenticeship schemes - programmes to help employees - so why, she asked, don't they try to redirect or expand some of the budget to cover initiatives to improve the mental health of employees?
So where to start for better treatment of employees' mental health? Claire Farrow, conference director at Mad World Forum, said the stigma surrounding mental health persists because of entrenched attitudes. Organisations need to have better and more open discussions about mental health - not just mental illness.
The next step is auditing where current resources are allocated, what initiatives are in place and how well they are working. Senior management, she said, must be convinced of the value of investing in employees' mental health and help to strike a balance between corporate responsibility and employee responsibility.
The Facilities Show runs until tomorrow (20 June).