With this month being Mental Health Awareness Month, and in fact, 13th – 19th May serving as Mental Health Awareness Week, now is the time to talk about mental health in the workplace.
With one in four people experiencing a mental health problem each year in the UK, it’s highly likely that we all know someone affected by depression, anxiety or stress. And so of course it affects us at work – in fact poor mental health costs the UK economy up to £99 billion each year.
Employers are affected by working days lost due to absence, have experienced staff leaving their employment and staff not performing in their jobs.
Therefore, as an employer, taking steps to manage employees’ mental health in the workplace has never been more important.
Each new case of stress leads to an average of 29 days off work…can your company afford this?
So with this in mind, here we share 6 top HR tips for effectively managing mental health at work.
1. Ask the difficult questions
It is not unusual for business owners and managers to fear talking to staff about their health. They don’t know what questions they can ask and they are frightened of overstepping the boundaries of asking the wrong questions. But in reality, if you don’t ask the questions then you don’t know how to help. There’s no denying that mental health isn’t the easiest topic to talk about, especially at work. Employees may worry that sharing details of their mental health may lead to them being treated differently. However in society, in recent years, there has been a shift in attitudes towards mental health.
Conducting return to work interviews will provide you with the opportunity to discuss the employee’s absence, identify early signs and put supporting measures in place to help the employee.
2. Don’t be the ostrich – Early intervention is key
44% of people who suffer from stress have cited that the cause is heavy workload. In such situations if the matter is not addressed, a fitness to work certificate citing ‘Stress At Work’ is highly likely to land on your desk.
Ignoring this only leads to the situation getting worse and could result in:
- The employee’s absence being long term, which was avoidable
- Working relationships break down
- The employee submits a grievance
- The employee’s health deteriorating
- You lose very experienced, reliable staff
- Claims are taken against the company for their treatment
Have open communication with your staff, listen to any issues they raise and seek a resolution early.
If the employee does go off due to stress at work, ask them to explain what the cause of the stress is and work through a solution to enable the employee to return to work as quickly as possible.
3. Remove prejudice
It’s essential that if an employee shares details of their mental health, that they are still given the same opportunities as other staff members. It’s easy to unconsciously make a decision such as giving a candidate a new project because another employee’s work life is stressful. It is good practice to have conversations with employees who have cited mental health problems and discuss how their work can be managed in order to help alleviate this.
4. Awareness sessions
Educating staff on how to build their mental health resilience is an excellent way to reduce mental health absences and improve the overall wellbeing of staff.
One way to do this is by holding an awareness week or awareness sessions at regular intervals throughout the year, inviting speakers in to share their experiences or offer education sessions. Opening up the channels for communication is the perfect place to start.
From this, staff can identify the signs of depression, stress and anxiety at an early stage and implement some of the tips and recommendations from the sessions to prevent their health deteriorating.
5. Stress is not always created in the workplace
We all lead very busy lives and commonly employees’ mental health suffers as a result of something that is happening outside of work, in their personal lives such as:
- Marriage break-up
- The loss of a close friend or family member
- Financial worries
- Caring responsibilities
Even though this has resulted from external factors, this can still impact on the individual at work. So remember to acknowledge that they are working through a difficult time in their life and offer support where you can.
6. Encourage a stress-less environment
Doing what you can to promote a stress-less work environment will work wonders. Start by instilling a good work-life balance, in which long hours and out of office emails are not a part of your company’s culture. Remember, employees who are less stressed are more productive. Appreciating employees and advocating empowerment go a long way in promoting a happy team.
This is a growing area that employers are struggling with. If you need help with an employment issue that involves mental health, get in touch today. Contact Julie Pollock on 07858089006 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.