Gary Newborough is an experienced business advisor, who’s helped to support businesses of all shapes and sizes within a wide range of industries and sectors on crucial issues, including people management, stress and coaching.

During his extensive career, he’s worked as head of management development for BT, headed up the Kent Chamber of Commerce, been a successful restaurateur and is now an independent business consultant.

Mental health costs the UK economy up to £99 billion every year – with up to 300,000 people leaving their jobs and 8.9 million working days lost each year.

In this guide, Gary offers advice on how managers can address the issues of mental health in the workplace.

If you’ve got a question for Gary, don’t forget to give us a tweet @GC_EduSkills - or drop us a line.

Advice for managers 

There are growing concerns about mental health in the workplace.  Do you have any advice to offer to managers and organisations in this area?

Life is a series of lessons where we learn to cope with new situations. We need guidance and emotional support to sustain us through the potential stress that lessons bring.

The work environment presents challenges to individuals; where you are faced with realistic assessment and feedback about yourself and your performance and where the risks of failure have serious consequences. Dealing with anxiety is not always easy and people sometimes need support with this.

Balancing the demands of home and work can be tough, dealing with stressful situations, navigating relationships in work, accepting that you might not be liked and taking difficult decisions that affect people’s lives.

Healthy organisations recognise that people need support and invest in their development.  This includes helping managers to better understand and support their staff to deal with stress alongside assisting employees to gain new skills and survive in a fast paced and changing workplace. Some organisations also invest in health services to support their staff, such as confidential access to counselling or advice or by running health initiatives and programmes to promote fitness, well-being and work life balance.

Does your choice of job and choice of organisation you work for have an impact?

Very much so. People tend to be drawn to their type of work and the organisations that they choose to work for because they are compatible with their own values and aspirations. Getting that fit right is hugely important. It's likely that someone who enters the workplace today will have five careers in their working life (not five jobs), the fifth one of which probably hasn't been invented yet. 

Interviews aren't just about organisations selecting a candidate.  It's important for the candidate to decide if the organisation is a good fit for them.  All too often that point in the interview when the interviewers ask, "is there anything you want to ask us?" is followed by an uncomfortable silence. 

I spend a lot of my time coaching and delivering workshops on interview skills, helping organisations to get the right fit and saving the huge expense involved when they get it wrong. 

Recruitment improvements

What can organisations do to improve recruitment to ensure they get the right candidate?

The speed of technological advancement requires an agile workforce and a mechanism to support those who are unable to keep pace.  It gives less time for workers to experiment and find the best fit.  Managing careers in companies is therefore a new growth area, along with workforce planning, ensuring the right people, equipped with the right skills are available when they're needed. As well as working with organisations to ensure that where there is no longer a good organisational fit for the individual - it's addressed as soon as possible and alternatives are explored (including the opportunity for a dignified exit strategy).

Why do you think employers are experiencing more issues around mental health now?

A certain amount of pressure at work is essential to help you meet life's challenges, release your creativity and fuel your continued personal growth. That's always been the case. What's new is the rate of change. 

Too little pressure at work may result in insufficient challenge to achieve a sense of personal accomplishment.  Skills are underused.  Lack of stimulation leads to boredom. There is a lack of purpose or meaning in life, which may lead to stress.

Optimum pressure is when life is balanced and despite ups and downs, is perfectly manageable.  Job satisfaction and a sense of achievement are the result. 

Too much pressure leads to a constant feeling of having too much to do.  Despite physical and emotional exhaustion you feel unable to take time off to rest or play.  You're in permanent overdrive but not achieving as good results as expected or are capable of and you're feeling stressed.  Warning signals of impending mental health issues are often missed or disregarded. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, severe physical or mental illness can occur as a result of experiencing an abnormal amount of pressure.

Of course most employers hope that they have a healthy organisation and it will never get to that stage.  Maybe we should explore organisational health in more detail in the future? There are many ways we can help to try to ensure high levels of organisational health. However, something regarded as stressful by one person may not be perceived in the same light by another. Sometimes specialist help is required and there are many organisations that can provide support, such as:

  • Moodswings - A unique award winning charity based in Manchester, providing intense support to people with mood disorders and their friends and families.
  • HSE – Provides practical guidance to employers to meet its legal duty to assess the risks of work-related stress.
  • Mind - Mental health charity providing advice and support to anyone who is experiencing a mental health problem.

Over to you

If you’ve got a mental health or stress related question you’d like to ask Gary, be sure to get in touch via Twitter, LinkedIn or email.

And if you’re looking to equip managers with the skills to handle mental health issues, or want support with getting the right recruitment practices, simply hit the button below to book an obligation-free training consultation with our expert team now:

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