Working in the public sector is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice for many. Local authorities, hospitals, police stations, fire stations and more all work incredibly hard to keep the UK running like clockwork. While the topic of salary within these areas is no stranger to the headlines, what many employees are really lacking is the emotional support and guidance they need to cope day-to-day.
The mental health charity Mind found that public sector workers were more likely to have poor mental health than those in the private sector by over a third. While a recent report published by CIPD reveals that the public sector is much better at implementing mental health initiatives than the private sector, it also states that nearly two-fifths of respondents in the public sector say their organisation is more reactive than proactive.
Below we’ve identified 3 potential challenges facing the sector as a whole and steps you can take to make them a thing of the past...
Challenge 1 - Cuts are increasing the workload
Adopting a ‘do more with less’ approach is a great way of working... providing that it’s sustainable. With nearly one in four public sector employees feeling that their workload is unmanageable, this suggests that many people are biting off more than they can chew. If staffing levels are at capacity, consider other ways you can support the demands of the job.
What can be done?
Flexible working could allow certain roles to flourish. If a job is office-based and the individual is constantly being interrupted or dragged into unnecessary meetings, working earlier or later could provide a more peaceful environment to get stuff done. In roles where this isn’t possible, consider processes and systems that can help automate the more admin-led tasks.
Challenge 2 - Despite increasing awareness, there’s a stigma lingering that mental health issues imply you can’t ‘cope’ with your role.
Though the public sector has been praised for their efforts in trying to make mental health a priority, some employees will always feel uncomfortable raising issues with their superiors. They may not wish to be perceived as not being able to do their job or highlighting that they are struggling with what they have on their plate.
What can be done?
For those who are more private but still looking for a way to manage their mental health, online therapy courses such as Omnitherapyallow your employees to access the support they need completely anonymously. Accessible anytime, anywhere on any device, these clinically-led courses provide coping techniques for a range of mental health conditions such as Depression, Stress & Anxiety, Panic Attacks and more.
Challenge 3 - Almost half of public sector employees have had days off due to their mental health
While mental health should take equal priority to physical health problems, it’s possible that some of these days off could have been prevented had the early intervention methods been implemented sooner.
What can be done?
For roles where working from home is feasible, consider introducing a more flexible working day. For those where it’s not possible, ensure your staff have regular one-to-one meetings with a member of senior management they feel comfortable with, create a culture where honest feedback is welcomed and employers and employees can work together to find solutions to increased stress and pressure.
What’s next for the public sector?
While efforts thus far are being recognised by employees, working to understand the gaps in support will be the first step of any public sector employer. Create a strategy and work with your HR team to execute it as soon as you can.
For those who are time poor and need an interim (or permanent) solution, working with a trusted third party such as Omnitherapy can provide a cost-effective route to providing mental health support for all.
About the author
Richard is an experienced clinician with over 30 years experience under his belt.
Clinical Director, Omnitherapy / Head of Service – Therapy For You (IAPT) Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) / CBT Therapist. BABCP (Accred).