“Poor managers are bad for your health”. This was just one of the findings from CIPD’s 2022 Health and wellbeing at work survey, which identified issues such as including heavy workloads and ‘management style’ as major causes of stress in the workplace.
The CIPD’s findings are a stark reminder of the negative impact people managers can have on employee mental well-being if they are not trained and supported to go about their management role in the right way. As well as being damaging to employees and their families, a stressed workforce can result in poor performance, more sick days and higher staff turnover.
Healthy leadership starts at the top
Many businesses go through tense periods, but good people managers can help mitigate or even prevent negative effects on their employees. While a certain amount of stress, such as a realistic deadline, can have positive effects, too much can contribute to common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
One in four people will experience issues with their mental health at some point in their lifetime, and with the CIPD listing it as the main cause of long-term absence, it should be a topic that can be openly discussed without judgement or stigma. But the survey highlights – and indeed warns – about the “defining influence” top table attitudes and behaviours can have on the mental wellbeing of employees.
Sadly, the CIPD has found what it calls a “small but disappointing slip” in attention to employees’ mental and physical wellbeing within this year’s survey statistics in comparison with the first year of the pandemic. Seventy per cent of HR respondents agreed that employee wellbeing was on senior leaders’ agendas (down from 75 per cent last year) and 60 per cent said they believed that line managers have bought into the importance of well-being (67 per cent last year).
While the CIPD found that more organisations were taking steps to tackle unhealthy practices such as ‘presenteeism’ and ensuring people who are ill are discouraged from working, it also highlighted the need for these messages to come straight from the top.
The survey concluded: “Now, more than ever, we need leaders who are not afraid to show compassion, who consciously role-model healthy working practices and foster an environment where people feel safe to speak about health issues and seek help.”
Culture is crucial for health
Companies need to use both their eyes and their ears – being observant of stressful situations and taking time to listen to their staff can help diffuse the negative impact of situations as they arise. Creating a culture that resonates with employees, where people can be open about the mental and physical health issues that affect them, is crucial.
Health is a fact of life and employees are unable to perform their roles well without it. According to the CIPD’s research, the attitudes of senior leadership are “pivotal” to making sure the well-being of their employees is taken seriously and “embedded in day-to-day people management practices.”
The survey reports that the greater focus on employee health and well-being during the Covid pandemic has slipped down the priority list, but we’re only just beginning to see the side effects of two years of lockdowns and restrictions. The consequences of delayed routine health checks and the knock-on effects on treatment programmes are likely to result in poorer health outcomes in the years to come.
Many of us will struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives – but the good news is that there’s a lot we can do to improve it. Men’s Health Week 2022, took place last month organised by the Men’s Health Forum, which provides an independent voice for health and wellbeing for men and boys.
“Time for your MOT”
One in five men will die before the age of 65, and the causes of this can be both physical and mental. In a year where we’re all trying to get back to normal, this year’s campaign is urging men to take “Time for your MOT.”
It encourages men to make both their mental and physical health a priority by attending any routine health checks they might be invited to or by reaching out and seeking help for any symptoms they may be experiencing. Checklists are available on the site identifying when you might need to speak to your GP for additional help with both mental and physical health issues.
The Forum also reports that the number of early-stage cancer diagnoses has dropped during the lockdowns. It’s not because these conditions are getting rarer – it’s just that men aren’t visiting GPs as much as women for these conditions to be diagnosed.
Just as companies need to raise their game when it comes to employee well-being, it’s important not to drop the ball when it comes to your own health.