'As a gender, we tend to open up less and bottle up more'

Ahead of International Men's Day, HRD looks areas impacting men’s wellbeing at work

'As a gender, we tend to open up less and bottle up more'

Men are less inclined to talk about their mental health issues and are more inclined to turn to alcohol or drugs to cope, according to new research.

Rather than let them suffer in silence, WorkScore aims to raise the awareness of men’s wellbeing needs.

Rob Stephenson, Founder, InsideOut LeaderBoard Taft, said mental ill-health is one of the significant challenges of our time.

“This is particularly the case if you are a man. As a gender, we tend to open up less and bottle up more,” said Stephenson.

“Sharing stories of mental health challenges is one of the most effective ways to smash this stigma.

“We need more male senior leaders from our workplaces to be open about their challenges to create cultures that allow our men to seek help when they are struggling.”

One such leader that is open about his own wellbeing and mental health journey is Brian Heyworth, Global Head of Client Strategy at HSBC.

He believes that more can be done to improve men's wellbeing. “This is an important topic, and this is a very welcome contribution to the conversation about men's mental health and mental health in the workplace,” said Heyworth.

WorkScore’s research identified three key areas that are impacting men’s wellbeing at work.

An unhealthy mindset
It appears that the stress of the modern workplace is having a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of male workers. Among those we surveyed, close to half are very stressed out and depressed most days. Also, 52% frequently felt anxious, with the highest rate of anxiety being among those between the ages of 25 to 34 years old. A further 10% of men do not feel that they can deal with life challenges, and 20% rate their work-life balance as very poor.

Poor sleep habits
On average, men only sleep for about six hours per night, which is less than the recommended seven to nine hours. Disturbingly though, 40% of them report having poor-quality sleep. Improving sleep time and quality is vital for male wellbeing; the WorkScore data shows that those who slept more, experienced less stress and were less depressed, and those who rated their sleep as high-quality experienced close to 20% less stress at work.

Struggles with diet and exercise
Although men rated themselves highly for fitness, the WorkScore research found that men are not getting the recommended amount of activity. Highlights from the research show:

Men aged between 25 to 34 years get only 19 minutes a day of exercise

On average, men are not intentionally active during workdays

Men aged 25 to 54 years average just 2.5 days of exercise per week

The average male diet is also concerning and smoking and alcohol consumption is higher for male workers aged above 45 years. They average 1.5 cigarettes and 2.5 alcoholic drinks per day, putting them at risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

The WorkScore research found that on average, men are not consuming a healthy diet and are averaging just 2.3 servings of vegetables and 1.4 servings of fruit a day.

That is below the recommended two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day. Younger male employees are consuming almost two servings of sugary drinks per day and just six glasses of water per day – which drops to five in those aged above 45 years.

Workplace Expert and WorkScore co-founder Suzanne Deeming is an advocate for employers promoting a healthy diet to employees and reducing the access to sugary drinks and processed foods.

“When employers focus on promoting a culture of wellbeing and information around a healthy diet, employees respond,” said Deeming.

“We can see from our research that men who feel that their workplace cares about their wellbeing are 22% less stressed at work.”

Where men succeed
Men are reporting positive results when it comes to their energy levels and having a positive support network. Our survey reports that 70% of men have a support network around them. Moreover, males rate their energy levels to be 10% higher than that of their female counterparts.

With the importance of providing a healthy workplace, WorkScore has identified key ways that employers can support the wellbeing of men in the workplace.

Here are WorkScore’s recommendations to improve the mindset and wellbeing of men:

Improve sleeping habits. WorkScore’s research shows that those who rate their sleep quality as high enjoy 30% higher energy levels than those who have poor quality sleep. Moreover, those who sleep for eight hours per night rated as the least depressed out of our survey respondents.

Encourage healthy eating. Swap out sugary drinks from vending machines and offer healthy snacks in the breakroom. Provide information and support for workers who would like to quit smoking. Educate male employees about the healthy intake of alcoholic beverages.

Promote movement. Organise group fitness or exercise activities that appeal to male workers as WorkScore’s research shows that men who exercise at least 60 minutes per day are 9% less depressed than those who are not active.

Provide breaks from work. Encourage and schedule regular breaks. Men who take lunch breaks frequently are 7% less depressed, and those who take short breaks throughout the day are 11% less depressed. Taking regular breaks is a great way to help men cope with workplace stress, anxiety, and depression.

Make male wellbeing a key focus. Men who feel that their workplace cares about their wellbeing are 22% less stressed at work, and those who feel that their workplace has a significantly positive impact on their overall wellbeing are 44% happier at work.

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