Does your business do enough to protect your employees’ mental health?

 25 Nov 2019

Mental health is one of the biggest issues facing businesses today and, in most organisations, there is a lot more that could be done to help those suffering from mental illness.

Awareness around mental health issues is improving, but did you know that one in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health issue over the next 12 months?

So, even if you don’t struggle with mental ill health personally, you’ll likely know many others that will.

Employers are realising that they need to do more to promote a mentally healthy workplace. Not only is it good for reducing sickness absence - mental health issues are estimated to be the reason behind 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK - but it improves the productivity and quality of life for employees, colleagues, and their families.

Here are a few ways we can all help to ensure good mental health in the workplace for ourselves and our colleagues.

1. Learn how to recognise a mental health problem

This isn’t just about recognising the signs in others, but ourselves too. Mental health problems can have a lot of different symptoms and signs. As a rule, you should seek help from your GP if you have difficult feelings that are:

  • stopping you from getting on with life
  • having a big impact on the people you live or work with
  • affecting your mood over several weeks
  • causing you to have thoughts of suicide.

At work, we might notice that we are more tired than usual. We might make uncharacteristic mistakes, find it hard to motivate ourselves, our timekeeping might slip, or we may be short-tempered. 

We might look or feel very tired or drained. We might find we isolate ourselves, avoid colleagues or appear distracted. We might procrastinate more – or grind to a halt altogether. Or we might speed up or become chaotic, intruding into others’ conversations and work, and taking on more work than we can manage. 

We may find these early warning signs hard to see in ourselves, and it can help to have colleagues who can help us connect this to our mental health.

2. Talk about it

If you had a broken leg, you would seek help, wouldn’t you? There is no shame in reaching out when you are struggling with mental ill health. If your issue is linked to work – either directly causing it or because you feel it is impacting your performance – talk to your manager or to HR, and a good employer should be able to put steps in place to support you.

Be mindful as a manager that employees might not want to discuss their problems directly with you. You’re not expected to be their councillor but open a dialogue and offer professional help if it is required.

3. Help to prioritise a good work-life balance

When mental health at work is concerned, stress and long hours are two common factors.

Thanks to technology and our ‘always on’ culture, good work-life balance can seem harder to achieve than ever before – and this may impact wellbeing and mental health. Consider the culture of your organisation. Are people consistently working long hours, or responding to emails in the evening or weekend? If so, you might need to address the culture of your workplace.

4. Have the right process in place

Make sure your company has clear policies and processes in place to support your team. A Mind study found that 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don't feel they have the right training or guidance. Consult with experts to implement great mental health provisions and train managers to recognise and deal with mental health issues.

If you manage to do all these things, you should find a healthier, happier and more productive workplace.

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