Mental health at work – the issues, impact and what you can do to help
Mental health can be a serious issue for businesses. All too often, employers first become aware that there’s a problem when an employee takes time off work. And by then it could be too late, as the absence may be impacting the business financially and putting pressure on the remaining employees.
Unfortunately, mental health has often been a taboo subject, seen as a stigma by those that suffer and a ‘sensitive issue’ for employers. Sufferers may be reluctant to admit that they have a problem, which may cause their symptoms to worsen and, unlike physical conditions, it can be difficult for an outside observer to recognise that there’s anything wrong.
Communication is fundamental. Staff need to know that their mental health is important and that being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination.
So what can you do to support your workforce and prevent mental health issues having a negative impact on the running of your business? Here are my five tips to help you get a grip on mental health in your workplace.
- Promote a culture of awareness and acceptance
Breaking down the barrier of silence around mental health should be a priority. The most important thing employers can do is promote a culture where people can discuss problems openly, without the fear of being stigmatised, and seek help when they need it.
- Equip managers to recognise the signs
Ensure your managers can spot the signs of common mental health conditions. Symptoms could include loss of appetite, fatigue and tearfulness.
- Develop greater work / life balance initiatives
Reduce stress levels by encouraging regular breaks and eating lunch away from desks, while discouraging 24/7 work access.
- Understand the extent of your mental health issues
If you have an Employee Assistance Programme provider, ask them for anonymised utilisation reports for your helpline and counselling services. You’ll also find clues in absence records, health insurance claims, Occupational Health and Group Income Protection referrals, as well as staff surveys.
- Signpost staff to support services
Make sure employees know about your employee assistance programme, if you have one. And ensure line managers mention it whenever they talk to those showing signs of stress or mental illness. Ultimately, the more people talk about mental health, the easier it becomes to deal with – both for the employee and the employer.
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