Men’s Health: Why Workplaces Need to Break the Stigma
The importance of a healthy workforce cannot be overstated. A healthy workforce is more engaged and productive. They are less likely to be absent and will likely stay with an organization longer, reducing the need to recruit and train new people. But there’s another crucial reason to help a team stay healthy too. To know that our physical health is intrinsically linked to our mental health.
Why mental health matters
We understand the need for good mental health in the workplace. Just as we understand there is a stigma that often prevents men in particular from seeking help when they are having difficulty. In fact, according to a 2019 Mind Report, fear of being told they are mentally ill is one of the top three reasons why one in ten men (10%) would not seek help. This is worrying, given that the same report found that 43% of men surveyed regularly feel worried or depressed, up from 37% in 2009.
A cluttered space can cause feelings of anxiety, while tidy spaces do the exact opposite, providing a calming effect.
Clearly, more needs to be done to break this stigma and help men understand that admitting their vulnerability does not weaken them. And it’s something the workplace can play a key role in achieving by encouraging leaders to talk about their own mental health and creating safe spaces for conversations about physical and mental health. However, we also need employers to understand the critical role that our physical work environments can also play on our mental health.
What is the link ?
Many physical factors at work can impact our mental health. For example, without a straight chair or a monitor set at eye level – something that, during the pandemic, many of us have had to trade for spare desks and kitchen tables – office workers can easily suffer. back pain. If left unaddressed, a problem like this can start to affect our sleep, which can also have a huge impact on mental health.
Light is also important. During the winter months, the lack of natural light can cause many of us to struggle with seasonal affective disorder, while poor indoor lighting can contribute to stress and anxiety throughout the year. .
Interestingly, even something as simple as a messy desk can also impact mental wellbeing. A cluttered space can cause feelings of anxiety, while tidy spaces do the exact opposite, providing a calming effect. Likewise, crowded or noisy spaces can easily lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed.
What can employers do?
The types of problems we are talking about here may seem small. But the potential ripple effect can be significant and, crucially, these are all things leaders and HR can affect quickly and easily.
For example, if a team member suffers from back pain, it is not enough to encourage him to see a doctor for a diagnosis. An employer could also support them with ongoing physiotherapy appointments, encourage them to be more active during the day, and should provide an ergonomic setup. It’s this kind of holistic approach that will have a long-lasting impact and help preserve that employee’s physical health as well as their mental health.
Likewise, there are preventative measures that can help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Increasing the amount of natural light in an office or ensuring work areas are properly lit would be a good place to start.
With conversations about men’s mental health always proving particularly difficult, it seems likely that they would rather suffer in silence than talk.
There are even ways to make an office more calming. You might find it difficult in a city center to offer a view that offers a lot of greenery. Instead, you might consider bringing potted plants or flowers to the office, so team members have some contact with nature.
Likewise, consider the color palette of your work environment. Color affects mood, so consider painting your office a light, bright color. Soft hues are especially good and can even help reflect light.
Finally, do what you can to keep the desk tidy. Encourage team members to organize their space and regularly remove as much clutter as possible.
Putting words into action
For those who are still grasping the idea of a link between physical and mental health, it can be difficult to imagine how measures like these – some of which may seem small – could have a significant impact.
But we have to keep in mind if a male colleague, who might fear being called weak, is likely to ask for help if he thinks he’s stressed out because of the clutter or the lighting. How they feel is perfectly valid, but with conversations about men’s mental health still proving particularly difficult, it seems likely they’d rather suffer in silence than talk.
Make no mistake: this is one piece of a larger puzzle. We are finally seeing workplaces start to address women’s health issues, offering greater support to women who are, for example, going through menopause or undergoing fertility treatments. But we also must not lose sight of the challenges surrounding men’s mental health.
I believe workplaces need to create psychologically safe spaces – spaces where individuals can fully express themselves, feel valued, and have difficult conversations without fear of judgment. There is no point in sandwiching intense conversations about health and mental health between meetings, leaving colleagues with no time to reflect or collect their ideas. Nor can we expect them to simply hide their feelings under a cloak of composure.
Employers should ensure this is a space where team members can speak equally about their mental and physical well-being
Transparency is everything
The key here is to be transparent, to offer an element of choice for team members in terms of where and when to meet, and to engage (as a leader) in the conversation. However, it is essential for an employer to ensure that this is a space where team members can speak equally about their mental and physical well-being.
Now is the time to start thinking about thinking about healthcare holistically; consider all possible factors that could negatively affect a person’s health and understand that what could affect a person physically is also likely to affect their mental health. This is how we will ensure good mental and physical health for our male colleagues. And ultimately, this is how we will ensure that we are all able to perform at our best at work.