[#KeepITfit] ITSM and Mental Health – Is Your Organization Doing Enough?

#KeepITfit is our attempt to make some noise about the issues that matter the most: your health – mental, emotional and physical. The series of posts with #KeepITfit, will share the stories, experiences and opinions of people who took up the challenge to #KeepITfit.

Business goals focus on profit, KPIs focus on productivity, and our reviews focus on how we are progressing in our career. Seems normal enough, doesn’t it? But, there’s a flaw  here. Nowhere within these many goals and measurements is there a focus on our well-being, on how we are dealing with the everyday stress of our working lives.

According to the UK-based mental health charity Mind, 1 in 6 workers is currently dealing with a common mental health problem such as stress, anxiety or depression. The numbers might be even higher if you consider the fact that not everyone talks openly about their mental health.

This is an alarming statistic. It puts the spotlight on the urgent need to discuss and debate  well-being in the workplace.

What Is Workplace Well-being?

Workplace well-being essentially means creating a culture of openness and understanding,  when it comes to mental health. It means recognizing when someone might not be doing too well and working with them to make things better.

Happy workers are more productive and committed than workers who are struggling and do not feel supported

The problem is that there is still  stigma attached to mental health issues that makes it  so difficult to talk about.

A survey by Mind showed that ‘one in five people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed at work, and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem had told their manager’.

According to the latest release from the Office for National Statistics- mental health issues are a common reason for sickness absence resulting in 15.8 million days lost in a single year.

If we’re going to end this stigma, we need to start talking and while we’ve moved ahead from where we used to be, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Workplace Well-being in ITSM

An article from the Service Desk Institute (SDI), which spoke to Mind about workplace well-being indicates that many employees have reported that ‘work is the most stressful factor in their lives’. It goes on to suggest that ‘this stress is triggered from a variety of factors, most commonly including: long hours, high pressure environments, negative relationships, unrealistic deadlines, job insecurity, lone working, and high-risk roles’.

While these factors can apply to many industries and job roles it’s easy to see why workplace well-being within ITSM is important; long hours, unrealistic deadlines, and a high pressure environment are all common features within the industry whether we like to admit it or not.

The ‘do more with less’ expectation that has been a part of ITSM for many years  can often create an environment that puts mental health at risk.

The pressure for IT to keep up with modern business needs, deliver slick services, and offer proactive support is immense. That same pressure  finds its way to employees who don’t feel comfortable to tell how they feel.

Managing the Mental Health of ITSM Employees

We need organizations to start taking responsibility for the wellbeing of their people if we’re going to see any change.

Working in ITSM can be incredibly fun. Yes, you work under pressure and in fast-paced roles but, as long as the balance is correct, this can be exciting and extremely rewarding. It’s only when the balance tips and the pressure mounts that it becomes exhausting and messes with our mental state.

The problem for ITSM professionals is that the tipping point can occur pretty frequently. Major incidents create a hectic environment, unplanned outages can cause longer working hours, and ever-changing business requirements create a hefty workload. Even when you do  get it right, keeping everything ticking just as it should, you aren’t getting any recognition for it. It’s a thankless job and that can have a drastic effect on an individual.

It sometimes feels as though the tipping point is inevitable in the world of ITSM  and we need to make sure we’re looking out for each other. An environment that supports us when we’re down can go a long way.

Here are five ways you can look after the wellbeing of your employees in your ITSM organization

1.Encourage Conversation – sometimes, simply having another person  you can talk to can really help when you’re not feeling your best.When you work in an environment where you can’t talk about your true feelings, it adds to the stress that you’re feeling.

When you encourage conversations in your workplace you’re creating a space where people don’t have to feel ashamed of how they are feeling. Instead, they’ll feel supported and happier which, at the end of the day, is what every employee deserves.

2. Offer Support – it’s not enough to just encourage conversation, you need to show your employees that you actively support them.

For people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, being able to tell their manager can make a world of difference. Knowing that someone in the workplace is aware and understanding of the condition can really help  lighten the load.

When you create a supportive environment you allow your employees to open up to you. Perhaps the workload is becoming too much, maybe there is negativity that needs to be addressed, or rumours of change that  need to be cleared. Whatever it is, when your staff feels as though you care for their well-being they are far more likely to remain committed to your organization and motivated to give their best.

3. Have a Policy – one thing that is missing from many organizations is a policy around mental health. You can bet there’ll be one for physical health: sick days, hospital appointments, dental visits. But mental health? It’s rarely considered in the fine print and this needs to change.

Having a policy gives peace of mind to both you and your employee. A policy ensures that everyone is treated fairly and it shows that your organization takes workplace well-being seriously.

4. Get Help – you can send some staff members on training courses so you have people in place that can recognize  signs of mental health illnesses. Workplace well-being isn’t about managers taking on all of the responsibility, it’s about creating an environment where everyone looks out for one other.You work as a team, so act like one. When you’ve got each other’s back, you’ll find that a  more harmonious atmosphere develops, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

For more information, you can look into mental health first aid courses for your staff to take:

UK: https://mhfaengland.org/

USA: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

5. Give Help – it’s also important to recognize that employees need to look after themselves too. You can help them by providing materials that teach them how to look after their own well-being.

The five steps to well-being is a great place to start and Mind provides some excellent resources to help people  look after themselves. The management of employee mental health in the world of ITSM is critical. If we want to make sure we’re getting (and keeping) the best people we must treat them with the respect and decency that they deserve.

Without people, our tools and processes are meaningless; without people, we don’t have an industry to celebrate.Engage in workplace well-being effectively and make your organization one that supports happy and committed employees.