Tackling mental health in the SME space

Press Release – Nexgen

29 June 2018

Rising mental health issues should prompt SMEs to review traditional work structures

In the face of rising mental health issues in the workplace – including high rates of anxiety and depression in young people – small to medium employers are being urged to take on board that they now have a duty of care and to rethink traditional structures to work, including sick leave.

Director of Auckland based NexGen Group, Vinay Iswar, says Ministry of Health figures indicating that a growing number of young New Zealanders are battling anxiety and depression need to be taken seriously by small to medium employers, in particular.

“I want to urge SME employers to take mental health in the workplace seriously. Ten years ago, nobody thought anything of reprimanding staff when they messed up, but today you need to take a far more considered approach.

“New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD. 15 to 24-year-olds battling mental health has gone from 5% six years ago to 11.8% in 2017,” says Iswar, referencing MOH figures.

“Ask the questions first, like ‘why are you late?’ or ‘why did you forget to do this task?’ But do it in a calm and compassionate manner because it doesn’t help to contribute to what already may be a bad day. Employers need to be much more aware, particularly with the prevalence of mental health issues in our population.”

Iswar says there is no longer room for the kind of thinking that separates home life from work life, because there is no such thing as being able to leave your problems at home.

“Watch for behaviour changes. Understand your team members’ home lives and don’t be rigid in your work structures.

“For example, many companies still require staff to ‘put in for leave’ weeks or months ahead of time. Here at NexGen, if somebody needs a mental health day they just have to give us a day’s notice and it’s all good,” says Iswar, adding that the mental health day was just that – no mobile phones, no calls from work, no emails and no ‘just quickly do this’ last minute instructions.

He said employers were also caught up in the mental health struggle and that he has personally seen people fold their businesses because they were battling depression and anxiety.

“It is important for employers to be proactive and recognise signs and symptoms – in themselves and their staff – and to be in a position to help their staff members access professional help without hinderance, if that is what is needed – don’t play psychologist though; leave it to the professionals.”

Iswar says SMEs could consider aiming to create a culture in which people are accountable for their own time and wellbeing by giving them the tools and by empowering them.

“At NexGen, we’re fine with, for example, if somebody wants to work from home because they need to look after the dog. Dogs are part of the family too.

“By making your workplace a company where people can aim for a balanced life you make yourself into a more desirable employer,” says Iswar.

For more information: http://nexgen.nz/


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