How to support employees mental health
How can organisations effectively support employees experiencing mental illness in the workplace?
With one in six individuals in the UK experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week, and over 15 million work days lost to work-related stress, anxiety or depression last year, it’s clear that workplaces need to do all they can to support employees with mental health issues.
Experiencing mental illness can be extremely overwhelming and isolating for an individual. Fear about how their employer may react can compound their anxiety. Many people don’t want to disclose that they are struggling with poor mental health, because they are concerned about the stigma they may face. However, if you treat an employee differently because of a mental health problem this could be discrimination and you may be breaking the law.
So, how can organisations effectively support employees experiencing mental illness in the workplace?
Talk about mental health
It’s vital that you create a work environment that is open and supportive, and one where employees feel they can talk to managers about their mental health. There needs to be a strong internal dialogue around mental health being treated as seriously as physical health. This is necessary, so staff don’t feel the need to hide issues they may be struggling with, which can lead to more serious mental health implications further down the line.
During internal one-to-ones, managers should check how their line report is feeling and ask whether they are experiencing any stress at work. Not only is this a good opportunity to spot mental health problems when they arise, but it also forges a culture where staff feel they can openly talk about how stressed and anxious they are at work.
People with mental health problems, like those with physical disabilities, may require a more flexible approach to work. And just as you would for an employee with a physical disability, you should do your best to accommodate their needs. Home working and flexible hours to work around counselling or doctor appointments are all things that could make a huge difference to someone who is living with a mental health problem. Taking a flexible approach also means employees are less likely to take days off sick with work-related stress, so not only does supporting the employee benefit them but it can consequently benefit your business.
Mental health problems can be hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t experienced them. It’s therefore a good idea to offer training to employees on spotting and supporting mental health in the workplace. Not only will this promote greater understanding and tolerance, but an empathetic work environment can help reduce the severity of the mental health problems employees experience. There are a host of training sessions and resources out there for organisations to improve their mental health awareness and Mind, the mental health charity is a good place to start.
Wellbeing at work
To encourage positive mental wellbeing at work it’s a good idea to organise staff incentives and benefits that focus on reducing employee stress levels and better managing their anxiety. Weekly meditation sessions, discounted exercise classes or gym membership, and duvet days, can all help to improve wellbeing at work.
The other factor which is key to wellbeing is a good work life balance. Managers should ensure employees aren’t working excessively over their hours or picking up work after-hours or at the weekend. Down-time allows people to rest and recuperate, which is essential for feeling energetic and positive at work.
Mental health is something that affects all organisations and every business has a responsibility to its staff to support them with mental ill health. Small changes such as flexible hours and a positive mental health culture, can make a huge difference to individuals experiencing mental health problems and significantly reduce the number of stress-related absences from work each year.