Mental Health in the Workplace: Time To Take It Seriously

December 4th, 2019
Mental helath in the workplace

There’s a lot of speaking about mental health in the media. Despite that, it’s still a difficult issue to broach, especially when it comes to the workplace. We’re still not comfortable saying we have a problem, often for fear that we’ll lose our job or damage our career in some way.

Good mental health practice in the workplace can have huge benefits. Promoting wellbeing and providing support to staff who need it is likely to improve productivity and performance. It’s a challenge that many business faces to get right.

When you consider that just 13% of workers feel comfortable discussing mental health issues in the workplace, you can understand the challenge many employers face.

Here we take a closer look at how businesses and organisations not only need to be more aware of mental health issues in the workplace but look closely at what support should be put in place for staff at all levels.

Mental Health Statistics

The Challenges of Mental Health Wellbeing in the Workplace

We sometimes see the workplace as a separate construct when it comes to our health and wellbeing. It’s easy to ignore someone who is struggling or to put our own worries in the context of ‘getting the job done’.

There is a number of stress factors that impact on mental health in the workplace:

As an employer, you should be aware of all these factors and be able to demonstrate a duty of care to those who work for you, at whatever level. Getting the right approach is not only beneficial for individuals but also reduces stress-related absences and reduces the negative impact on your business.

According to David Beeney on his site Breaking the Silence, mental health problems normally build up invisibly. It’s difficult to understand how these issues can become so intense and damaging to the individual unless you have suffered from a mental health problem.

It doesn’t only affect those working for your business. The boss can be just as vulnerable. The case of Kate Spade is a prime example. Although highly successful and running her own business, she committed suicide just 15 minutes after calling for her parents. She had been suffering from depression and anxiety for years but her death and her battle with mental health issues came as a shock for many who knew her.

This is often the biggest challenge for businesses and employers and why it can be so difficult to make the right, positive changes to culture.

Changing the Culture in Your Organisation

What we need to get better at, according to David Beeney, is actually discussing mental health and being open about it.

There are a variety of reasons why we often push this issue to the side. It can be uncomfortable talking about someone’s mental health issues for a start. We may have trouble taking it seriously, either because of our conditioning or simply because of a lack of knowledge.

We also hide away our own mental health issues and try to pretend everything is okay. It’s a sign of weakness, for example. It might have a detrimental effect on our careers. What will other people think?

We don’t have this same attitude if we are diagnosed with a health condition such as heart disease or cancer. We shouldn’t have it for mental health.

Employers need to find ways to create the right culture for their staff. That means making it easy for someone to talk, reviewing how your business is run to make it more conducive to supporting mental health wellbeing across the board. Even if you have a small business, there is a lot you can put in place.

Nominate a Wellbeing Champion

This is something that many businesses are starting to include. You may want to nominate a mental health first aider who can be there if a member of staff has an issue. They provide a confidential contact point where a person is able to discuss their mental health problem without fear of being ‘outed’ or of ridicule. Instead, they get an understanding colleague who is able to help them move forward positively.

Why not display a poster in the staff room regarding mental health advice? Check out one that we designed for our drivers: Mental health advice poster

Training Line Managers

It’s amazing the number of line managers who actually don’t have any training in handling mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. Many courses now do include modules on mental health in the workplace but updating your manager’s knowledge can have a great advantage for your business and your staff.

Employee Assistance Programme

With the stigma that is often attached to mental health problems, making use of an external employee assistance programme can have numerous advantages. This means your business is working with a confidential advice service that can provide immediate help with counselling, offer expertise in dealing with home problems such as domestic abuse, improving health and lifestyle, coping with addiction, handing stress and even getting legal advice.

This is a sensible way to demonstrate your duty of care to those who work for you. If someone on the workforce has an issue with depression or anxiety, they are able to get the counselling they need faster than if they were stuck on an NHS waiting list.

Employee Benefits

You can also add various employee benefits that are designed to promote good health and wellbeing. This might be anything from running exercise classes at lunchtime, offering gym membership to private medical insurance or simply providing flexible working practices.

Working with Employees

The sorts of measures you put in place to assist with good mental health and support your workforce will depend on a lot of factors. What you must do, however, is bring your employees into that discussion. They can help mould your provision and ensure your business delivers on its duty of care responsibilities.

And what does your business get out of it? A supported workforce that is less likely to spend time off sick due to stress, anxiety or depression. They may also be a lot more productive because they are happier and supported.

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