Men’s mental health at work: beyond the banter

Banter. It’s a firm staple of many workplace interactions and something that men are renowned for. The constant jeers, jokes and jibes make it easy for employers to assume that everything’s okay in their workforce, but is that always the case?

The following findings on male mental health from Mind suggest otherwise…

· 43% of men regularly feel worried or low

· 45% of men said that worries associated with their job and employment negatively affect their mental health

· And more recently, 42% of men said that pandemic restrictions have had a negative impact on their mental health

So, while you may not see the struggles of your male employees or colleagues, it’s important that you’re aware that they certainly do exist beyond the banter.

Why don’t men talk about mental health in the workplace?

Men tend to talk very little about their mental health full stop, never mind in the workplace. According to previous research from Samaritans, two in every five men won’t and don’t ask for help when they need it. But why is that?

Mental health for men advocates, Andy’s Man Club, believe there are three key things that prevent men from seeking mental health support:

1. Signs of weakness

2. Embarrassment

3. Fear of being a burden

Other reasons for keeping it schtum include a fear of being told they are mentally ill, fear of being put on medication by a GP and not knowing where to start when looking for help.

Can employers help to keep male employees mentally strong?

Absolutely. Just because men are less likely to ask for help doesn’t mean that employers can’t proactively support staff wellbeing, and with Men’s Health Week coming up (14-21 June 2021) there’s no better time to start.

This year, Men’s Health Forum are running a CAN DO challenge which involves choosing one of the five ways of wellbeing to try each day. These five things are scientifically proven to help us feel better and include:

Connecting with other people

(Being) Active and moving your body

Noticing the environment around you

Discovering or learning something new

Offering to do something for someone else

We’ve been fortunate enough to hear from local businessmen across the North East who have shared their tried and tested ways to feel better right now. Give them a go:

“For me it’s a combination of conditioning my mood throughout the day with music for every scenario. I also meditate regularly and do DDP Yoga! It seems to do the trick and keep my mind clear so I can be firing on all cylinders for our clients at Use Your Nudl.”

Shak Asghar, Chief Executive Officer at Nudl

“I have been fortunate enough to get a holiday in soon after restrictions allowed, and I’ve just got back from Portugal. Having that change of scenery has been so cathartic and I feel like a new man. It’s easy to become blinkered with work especially when it’s your passion, and that has been particularly true during the lockdowns. I can’t recommend enough, taking the time to completely switch off in a completely different environment.”

Matthew Protheroe-Hill, Co-Founder, Sencode.

“I make time to focus on mindful hobbies and interests outside of work and family. I have found podcasts to be extremely relaxing. I can take in a new history (my thing) subject and then pursue it and flesh out my knowledge through reading. I give this time to me.

I also try to learn a new skill each quarter, from rubix cube solving to arcade cabinet building and pizza baking. Both of these strategies have made a huge difference, the gifting of time to yourself is so important. It’s important that your family and friends support you and respect that this is DO NOT DISTURB time.”

Steve Dougan, Head of Enterprise, Teesside University

“For my own physical and mental wellbeing, I exercise daily which releases those cheerful endorphins and have a couple of good country walks each week which clears the head if I have something on my mind and puts me back in touch with nature.”

Pat Cambage, Business Coach and Mentor

“Things that I do include regular exercise, daily meditation practice, self-compassion and self-care, friendships via regular video calls; running coaching calls is also affirming, spending time in nature, reading; I haven’t had a TV for 10 years! Not much alcohol, no nicotine, modest caffeine, I go on retreats and have been holding follow-up video calls with fellow retreats for 3 years to create peer support. I work hard and sleep as much as I can manage, seek courage to understand the way we’re socialised and do my best to live my values.”

Justin Souter, Coach and Mentor

“There is very little separation between my professional life and social life. Many clients become friends and friends are clients, and I find myself working at odd hours and while on holiday, so I don’t subscribe to the notion of clear separation, it’s all the same from my perspective. Traditionalists may frown at this but I enjoy my job and I enjoy the environment we’re creating here at Square One Law. That we’ve all embraced flexible working blurs the distinction even more between our professional and social lives and though my job is stressful, very rarely do people call me because they’re having a great day, and often adversarial, I find that tackling interesting projects with people I enjoy working with and respect is the key to my resilience. In my experience the sense of a shared endeavour is tremendously powerful and means that one is less likely to suffer from the negative stress that is fuelled by isolation.

Apart from enjoying being a lawyer and helping to grow a successful business I also enjoy shared moments of mutual and personal joy with family, friends and clients whether it’s over a relaxed meal, on my bike in the countryside, or being dragged along our spectacular coast by my kite.”

Jean-Pierre van Zyl, Partner, Square One Law LLP

They’ve also shared some useful links to check out:

Mental health issues can affect anyone, any gender, age or status, therefore it’s so important that organisations take an active role in supporting the wellbeing of their workforce.

Here at Key Wellbeing we can help you to support employees with their mental and physical wellbeing, both at home and at work. Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you