One of the best benefits of modern technology is its ability to connect people in ways we would have never thought possible a few decades ago. It brings people together, keeps people in touch and — increasingly — it can help look out for and care for people when they need it the most. This is particularly important in understanding and caring about people’s mental health.
Often we invest in projects that are good for business. These might be new products or markets. It could also be an investment in making sure our companies’ workspaces — whether that’s the social care facilities to care for those who need it or a trendy new bar, or even simple things like bananas in the kitchen and a coffee machine — help your people stay healthy and alert.
But sometimes paying attention to people’s mental health — and indeed our own mental health — is something we can all step up on.
When you are responsible for a team of employees, you want them to be healthy in both body and mind. That makes sense in terms of caring for the people who work for you as people. But there are also significant business benefits that show why investing in people’s mental health can be some of the best investments you will make, no matter what your business is.
A 2019 World Health Organisation report found that for every US$ 1 (€0.90) invested in mental health treatment, there is a return of US$ 4 (€3.62) in improved health and productivity.
While increased awareness and conversation about mental health is an important step in the right direction, shift and gig economy workers can often have increased stresses and demands on them professionally which can make managing their mental health even more challenging.
A recent meta-analysis of 17 longitudinal studies found that shift workers are at higher risk than the general population for mental health problems.
This analysis, conducted by researchers in the U.K. and Australia, found that depression is particularly prevalent among shift workers, especially if they work late in the evening.
At Planday, our core belief is that people matter. When you look after your people, they look after your business. So here are a few practical ideas of how you can help look after your shift workers’ mental health.
How Employers Can Help
According to the researchers, 1 in 5 people in the U.S. and the U.K. do shift work. And at Planday, we estimate the global population of shift workers is around 1 billion. Obviously no two shift workers and no two people will have the same aspirations or demands in a job, so addressing their mental health needs is a public health issue that affects a sizeable chunk of the population.
So what can you do to help? Here are our tips:
1. Plan shift schedules far in advance
We recommend creating your schedule at least one month in advance. According to psychologists, planning things in advance leads to less stress and more happiness.
Unfortunately, one of the most stressful things about shift work is that you often don’t know when you’ll be working and when you’ll be off — this is something we can all relate to. Whether it’s trying to balance something like family commitments, or study — or even something like finding the time to exercise and look after yourself — unpredictability can complicate your self-care no matter what you do for work. This can be particularly difficult in fast-paced industries, like food service.
Too many restaurant managers post their staff work schedules once a week, for the coming week. For example, a manager might post their schedule every Sunday, and that schedule begins the very next day. Or some restaurants simply post a paper schedule on the wall, so employees who don’t work on Sundays have to either come in on their day off or call to find out when they’re working next.
Let your employees plan their lives. Announce your schedule a month in advance.
2. Respect employees’ requests to work or not work particular shifts
In addition to planning work schedules in advance, it’s important to allow your employees to choose which days and times they want to work. Of course, you have to think about your business needs for certain shifts. But whenever possible, you should give employees the option to set their own availability.
This is pretty simple. People have other responsibilities besides work. We all do!
Whether that’s family needs, medical appointments or social functions that they want to attend. Whatever the reason, giving them this bit of autonomy in their schedules will help to reduce stress and improve their mental health.
3. Allow employees to swap shifts if necessary
As a manager, you know that urgent needs often pop up at the last minute. Perhaps an employee’s child gets sick or there is a death in the family. Or maybe the employee just really needs a day off to unwind and focus on their mental health.
In these situations, it’s important that you give your employees the option to change their work schedules by swapping shifts. This doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, our planning software gives you this capability with zero effect on your business operations.
These are simple but effective ideas to give your employees the flexibility they need to do their job properly. It is good practice in terms of caring for your people as people and it makes good business sense too.
Shift work can be stressful, especially if employees pick up shifts or receive their schedules very last minute. This makes it difficult for them to plan their lives.
Planning your shift schedules in advance, allowing employees to choose their availability, and giving them the option to swap shifts, will go a long way toward caring for your employees’ mental health.
What are your favourite tips for improving and caring for your shift workers’ mental health? Share them with us on LinkedIn!