Employee Ill Health

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In the past, I have expressed my hope for the next generation of employees. The younger generation have an attitude and high ceiling of expectations that many would find unrealistic – but what people don’t realise is that they are standing up and fighting for change, much like my own generation did many years ago. Despite their fight, our society is seeing a lot of irresponsible and ill-informed leadership, and as a result, the new wave of talent is suffering heavily.

Mental health is a subject that is deservedly becoming less taboo – but unfortunately the rate of individuals struggling with such ill health is increasing. Between 2018-2022, UK research found that 21% of 18–24-year-olds with mental health issues were workless. Thinking of that age range, one thing is very clear – the pressure of leaving school for work or joining higher education can really take its toll. 79% of those young people, workless with ill health, also only have qualifications of GCSE level, or below. Stats and figures aren’t always my favourite way to make a point, but this one really did stand out. Qualifications are by no means the be all and end all to having a stable career – but they should certainly be something more employees want, and are able to gain without it affecting them in such a damaging way – so why is this not the case?

Reports are showing the pressures put on education, which can only deter individuals from going onto university or gaining even more qualifications – young people’s dreams should not be given up because of stress, worry and pressure we have placed on success at such an early age. Many of those going to university are also needing to balance part-time jobs and their own personal life – with the cost of living, and fees for university, students cannot rely on their families to put them through education, a desired qualification by employers becomes an unrealistic requirement. The pressure in schools needs to change, these young people are still figuring it all out – they need to be taught making mistakes doesn’t make them a failure. Education is not the only route to take if you want to become successful – and the first job you get does not have to be the only career you have.

As the new generations enter the workplace – leaders and businesses need to adapt. What makes for the best employee today isn’t what made for the best employee ten years ago. I often use my own team as examples – I am fortunate to be surrounded by this new generation and it has allowed me to better appreciate the sort of change required, and the change already happening when it comes to young people entering the world of work. Individuals want to be employed for the person they are, and the potential seen in them – just because an application doesn’t have a degree, or a professional qualification that doesn’t mean there isn’t a hardworking colleague ready to improve or enhance your company.

There is so much talent under utilised because of issues out of an individual’s control. The inability to afford university can restrict someone’s desire to achieve their goals – their mental health becomes affected, and they struggle to find what works for them. We have a responsibility, as leaders, to protect our employees, provide a supportive environment and give a much wider range of people a fair chance.

If leaders expect their team to work hard and put in significant effort every day, they need to create an environment where colleagues can be their authentic selves – especially on their ‘not so good’ days. The stigma around talking about mental health needs to go, we can do that together, with no judgement and with full support of one another. The change from education to work is not easy – the least we can do as colleagues is make the process easier and more desirable for everyone.

Our society needs leaders that will stand up for their teams and be able to empathise with their colleagues – nobody is perfect, and not every day is easy – let this be the start of making your workplace a psychologically safe space for your whole team.

We must demonstrate compassion, no matter how tough the demands. There is a huge payback to be had from all those that work with you and those who might think about coming to work with you.

Learn to walk in other people’s shoes.


Thought of the week:

Nobody develops in isolation – we grow when we are together

Tips for becoming an A player:

  • Discover what lies within you, and never fear what lies before you
  • Believe that things will get better and never give up
  • Strive for a better future
  • Try hard for those that care
  • Become aware of your prejudices


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