CEOs need to normalise mental health in the workplace

'There's just one characteristic and if you don't have this then the rest doesn't matter'

CEOs need to normalise mental health in the workplace

As part of HRD’s Thought Leader series, Kevin Singel speaks with author and business coach, Chester Elton on the importance of addressing mental health in the workplace and why it’s important to normalise it. 

Pre-pandemic 18% of employees surveyed said they had some kind of anxiety disorder. By the end of 2020 that number had jumped to 30%. When you break that down by age, 42% of workers in their 20s said they experienced anxiety. “90% of employees won’t talk to their employer about mental health or anxiety,” says Elton. He attributes this to the stigma around showing weakness in the office. “Employees worry that if they show weakness they won’t get promoted or they won’t get the good assignments.”

Elton has co-authored 14 books with Adrian Gostick. Together, they have sold over one and half million copies worldwide. Their latest book, ‘Anxiety at Work’, gives strategies to help teams build resilience and handle uncertainty.

“If you asked me four years ago, what are the characteristics of a great leader? We’d say visionary, great communicator, great motivator. Now, there’s just one characteristic and if you don’t have this then the rest doesn’t matter – You’ve got to have empathy, you’ve got to lead with empathy”, says Elton.

75% of Gen Z and 50% of millennials say they have left a job because of a mental health issue and the reason they have left is because they won’t talk about it. “Well, you haven’t made it emotionally safe or psychologically safe to talk about these issues and if you don’t have that in your culture, in your relationship as a leader, you’re going to have high turnover. 

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