Men’s Health – play your part as an employer

Men's Health - play your part as an employer
Home | News | Men’s Health – play your part as an employer

As we observe International Men’s Health Week we thought it would be a good time to consider how you can support this global initiative of increasing awareness of male health issues.

As an employer you are not going to be able to ‘fix’ employees physical or mental health, but you can think about ways to remove obstacles to them getting help and putting in place steps that will enable them to help themselves. 

Taking a lead from King Charles who shared that he had a problem with an enlarged prostate, the focus for this year’s initiative in the UK is to encourage men to share their own stories.

The power of sharing cannot be underestimated. On the day after King Charles’ announcement, there were over 16,000 visits to the National Health Service website page compared with 1,414 visits the previous day. Prostate Cancer UK almost doubled the number of users of its online risk checker.  This goes to show the difference that honest sharing can make.

What are the concerns?

One finding from surveys that may be of concern to employers is that men don’t go to see a doctor because they don’t want to take time off work.  Whilst retired men were as likely to have seen their GP as retired women, for those working full time 37% of men had seen their GP in a period of 3 months compared to 53% of women in the same period.  That is not to say that they don’t have health conditions, they just don’t tend to seek help about them. The big gap is in working age and a key factor is that men are concerned about taking time off work for mental health problems.

Effects in the workplace

There appears to be a particular reluctance for men to talk to HR about mental health issues. Research by the Men’s Health Forum shows that a third of working-age men would be embarrassed or ashamed to take time off work for mental health issue such as anxiety or depression compared to only 13% for a physical injury.  Over half of men with mental health problems were concerned that their employer would think worse of them. We have seen evidence consistent with those surveys in the investigations that we have carried out, when looking into issues that relate to men’s mental health.

There are some sobering facts about men’s health: evidence from Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) indicates men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women, with men making up 75% of total of suicides and this issue doesn’t just apply to younger men, the peak age group for death from suicide is actually 45-49.

What can you do as an employer?

Against a backdrop of such stark statistics, it can be hard for employers to assess their role in supporting men’s health.

Supporting annual initiatives such as International Men’s Health Week can be a great way to start the conversation.  Make it a celebration with workplace and social media campaigns and events, including supporting the ‘Wear Blue’ Day on Friday 14 June.  As the theme is about sharing, consider inviting a guest speaker to talk of their experiences and provide a platform for others to contribute.

Publicise the wellbeing services on offer – this is of course important for all staff, but given the evidence showing that men are less likely to reach out for help, this can be a critical area of support.  Ensure the materials and resources illustrate all of the services available, including any counselling services, are easy to find without the potential embarrassment of having to speak to a line manager or HR.

As always your line managers have a critical role to play – providing space for employees to talk, putting in place support measures. Navigating conversations on sensitive issues can be daunting for even the most seasoned manager.  In a busy work environment, it can also be difficult for line managers to spot the signs of an employee experiencing health challenges – even harder if staff are working remotely at times.  Training to support line managers on their role will be invaluable as will ensuring they have access to guidance and resources that can provide continual support.

There is a lot of research about the positive impact that exercise can have on physical and mental health. Look at ways to encourage staff by offering gym memberships, encouraging sports clubs at work, promoting a cycle to work scheme and so on.

There is also a growing body of research into the negative health (both physical and mental) impact of Ultra Processed Food so think about what food is on offer in the workplace and in your vending machines. Is it possible to move towards offering less processed food? See the book ‘Ultra Processed People’ by Dr Chris van Tulleken for a review of the evidence on that.

Create an open environment of discussion – employee engagement surveys and employee forums can be a great way to engage with staff, to encourage their contributions and suggestions and galvanise support for initiatives. 

Celebrating International Men’s Health Week is one way to showcase the importance of men’s health but it’s important that it forms part of the wider wellbeing offering in place for all employees, all year round.

For specialist HR support with any of these issues, please contact Simon Martin in our team on 07384 813 076.