Today marks World Mental Health Day in 2019. This global event encourages awareness about mental health issues in all environments: within the family, in young people, in the elderly and in the workplace. It’s fantastic that this is a conversation that we’re beginning to have openly.
However, employees in the tech industry are five times more likely to experience mental health problems such as stress and depression than the general population in the UK. There are plenty of ways in which tech employers can create a working environment that improves wellbeing rather than exacerbating mental ill-health.
Improving Physical Wellbeing
The reality of a job in tech is that most employees will be sat in front of a computer screen for up to nine hours a day. This is likely to lead to digital eye strain – symptoms of which include headaches, blurred vision, eyestrain, dry eyes and shoulder and neck pain – and issues associated with sitting down all day, including lower back pain and wrist pain.
Studies have shown that these issues can be alleviated by implementing a few simple changes in the office:
- Open plan “bench” workstations rather than private offices or cubicles, which promote activity and interaction around the office
- Standing desks to increase blood flow to the brain and reduce strain on the lower back
- A designated chill-out zone in the office to encourage employees to take time away from their desks and screens
- Regular massages or yoga classes scheduled during the workday to reduce stress and promote breaks from work
- Employee perks such as subsidised gym memberships or free fruit for the office to encourage a healthy lifestyle
Promoting Good Mental Health
Often there are small changes that employers can make to management practice that will have a significant impact on the mental health of their staff. A positive management style that rewards
Positive initiatives include:
- Employee recognition schemes to encourage positive peer-to-peer feedback
- One-on-one check ins and an “open door” policy for those who need to talk about their mental health
- Office-wide training on both coping with mental health issues and on helping managers to spot and support mental ill health in the workplace
- Office pets and desk plants, both of which are proven to reduce stress
Putting Initiatives into Action
Some of these initiatives may sound idealistic and difficult to implement, but there are plenty of examples of their use and their success in the tech industry.
Companies such as Passion Digital, an online marketing agency based in south west London, are foregrounding the importance of mental health in the workplace. Initiatives including weekly yoga sessions, ‘Resilience at work’ training, paid leave for charity work, time off for specialist therapy, free healthy snacks and fresh fruit are offered to employees on top of the more standard practices such as flexible working hours.
HR manager Channing Cox says: “We don’t see these initiatives just as perks to reel in employees – they are essential to the wellbeing of our staff, and therefore the efficiency and effectiveness of our agency.”