BIMA’s Tech Inclusivity & Diversity Report 2019 suggests mental health in the technology sector needs urgent attention. It found 52% of tech workers have suffered from anxiety or depression at some point and that people working in the sector are five time more depressed that the UK average making them comparable to those working in high-stress environments like the NHS.
So why is mental health an issue for tech businesses?
The nature of many – although not all – tech businesses can be a recipe for poor mental health due to:
- The pace of change and pressure to keep up-to-date with the latest developments
- Long and often unsociable working hours
- Constant connectivity and the culture of 24/7 availability
- Sedentary working environments e.g. offices and labs
- Lack of diversity in the workforce – those who are different often feel marginalised
Why it’s important to do better in mental health
As a sector, we clearly need to do more to promote and protect the mental health and wellbeing of our employees but aside from the moral imperative, there are commercial implications too:
Finding and keeping good people
Finding talent is one of the biggest challenges facing employers in the tech sector and while salary and prospects remain important, developing a reputation as an empathic, mental health aware employee will help you not only attract the people you need, but keep them too.
Creativity and innovation
Good mental health is essential to creativity and innovation, and this is especially important in the tech sector. TEL is a global leader in the design and manufacture of airflow monitors and controls for laboratories and we need our team to be happy, healthy and positive, to be able to keep finding better ways to solve our customers’ problems and take our business forward. We encourage not just our customers to ‘tell us’ their pain points, but our staff too. Find out more about our #TELus campaign here.
The bottom line
A happy workforce is more productive, ensuring your business is more profitable.
What can you do to look after your employees’ mental health?
Here at TEL, we’re making a concerted effort to support our employees’ mental health and wellbeing. We’re not perfect but we thought we’d share some of the things that have worked for us:
Prioritise and publicise
Make mental health and wellbeing a priority. Talk about it with staff, have procedures in place for people who are struggling and make sure they’re well publicised.
Encourage a work-life balance
Here at TEL, we’re very conscious of not overloading the team – they work hard and have a lot of innovative and creative ideas because they have a good work-life balance, not because they’re always at work.
Aside from offsite projects, our office hours are a standard 9am – 5pm, and we often offer extended closures over holiday periods as a thank you to the team for their continued hard work, which helps them rest, recuperate and relax with their friends and family.
Stay in touch
While home-working offers greater flexibility for many employees, beware the potential for them to feel lonely and isolated. Consider days where everyone is encouraged to get together (weekly or even monthly) as well as ensuring line managers check in with team members regularly.
Offer or signpost to professional support
Ensure all staff have access to professional mental health resources when they need them. At TEL we offer all staff access to six (more if needed) face-to-face sessions with a counsellor and have an open-door policy to foster an inclusive, nurturing working environment.
If you can’t support a formal Employee Assistance Programme you might consider offering periodic drop in counselling sessions or contributing towards the cost of wellbeing apps like Calm or Headspace which are a great tool for those experiencing low level anxiety or depression.
There is also a lot of advice freely available from organisations like MIND (who offers Wellness Action Plans for employees and managers), the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and Shout 85258.
About Shout 85258
Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service that saves lives. Shout Volunteers have taken more than 970,000 conversations with people who are anxious, stressed, depressed, suicidal or overwhelmed and who need immediate support. Find out more about Shout 85258 here.
Talk. Talk and talk some more. There should be no shame or stigma attached to mental illness and yet it still exists. The only way to eliminate it is for us all to talk about our mental health as openly as we can, and encourage our employees to do the same.