Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week - an annual reminder of the importance of reflecting on the emotional wellbeing of ourselves and those around us. Millions of workplaces put efforts into ensuring their teams are aware of what support exists, and how to get more support - but are employees the only people we need to consider, when thinking about Mental Health at Work?
There’s a workforce of over 5m people who don’t have an employer, but are part of your team. They’re freelancers, the self-employed, contract workers, gig economy, the small businesses and networks which make up your supply chain.
Many businesses rely upon freelancers to do both essential and non-essential work - they’re the workforce you bring in when you need a superpower you don’t have on staff, when time is tight and you need extra support, when you want to build a team of people perfect for the job, when you have a short-term need, and increasingly for many businesses - they’re becoming a core part of the workforce. Many businesses hire more freelancers than employees - Google, for instance. Many businesses are almost entirely reliant upon the self-employed to create their teams: the creative industry, construction, support workers, TV and film.
As the world shifts to new models of modern work - the support structures we put in place need to shift too. It’s no longer acceptable to ignore the needs of people who aren’t on the payroll - if they’re part of your team, they’re part of your team. At the moment, whilst we're all working apart - it's even easier to forget who is part of this network of people who are helping you to do brilliant work. There's an email list for all of your staff, but there's no email list for everyone else who's part of doing what you do, so we need to actively think about how we support everyone we work with.
This isn’t about putting on mindfulness sessions - there are far greater impacts on the mental health of the self-employed: late paying of invoices, poor communication, unfair payment terms, lack of respect for time, lack of feedback, just to name a few - all of which directly impact on the mental health of an individual, and can impact the quality of work being done for you.
Putting the wellbeing of your extended teams helps improve the quality of work, reduces cost, ensures talented individuals are able to work with you next time you need to call upon them - it just makes business sense.
So let’s mark this week as when we move from raising awareness to taking action - and let’s help everyone on our team to work well, regardless of employment contract.