What is wellbeing?
Just like physical health, we all have mental health and it can impact on our daily life. How we feel can vary from good mental wellbeing to difficult feelings and emotions, to severe mental health problems. Mental wellbeing or wellbeing is the ability to cope with the day-to-day stresses of life, work productively, interact positively with others and realise our potential.
Mental health problems
We all have times when we struggle with our mental health. A mental health problem is when difficult experiences or feelings last for a long time and reduces our enjoyment in life. A doctor may make a formal diagnosis, or perhaps someone feels that they are experiencing a prolonged period of poor mental health.
Common mental health problems include depression, anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms can be mild to very severe.
Severe mental health problems include rarer conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and have variable and diverse symptoms. Severe mental health problems are more complex and/or will require long-term treatments.
A certain amount of pressure is a normal part of life. Pressure can motivate us to take action, make us feel energised and ensure we get results. Work-related stress is when someone stops coping due to excessive pressure or demands at work. Stress, including work-related stress, can be a major cause of illness. Stress is not a medical diagnosis, but severe long-term stress may lead to depression or anxiety, or more severe mental health problems.
What can employers do to nurture mental health?
A proactive and preventative approach to promoting good mental health is best, rather than reacting as issues come up. Employers can help:
- Senior management should take the lead in fostering a positive approach towards mental health and creating an open environment where employees can discuss mental health.
- Regular informal and confidential one-to-ones with managers should give employees an opportunity to open up about mental health issues they are dealing with. These are vital for homeworkers who may be feeling isolated or overwhelmed, which is harder to spot when you are not in the same office. Training managers is key so that they feel confident to offer individual support to reduce anxiety or work-related stress.
- Design effective policies on mental health and wellbeing – and don’t forget to communicate these clearly to employees.
- Wellbeing benefits can promote good mental health, keep staff physically healthy and reduce absenteeism. You might offer an Employee Assistance Programme, counselling, life assurance and private medical insurance. Health-improving benefits such as subsidised gym membership, meditation apps like Headspace for Work, eyecare benefits, flu injections and health screening have become more popular.
And encourage employees to:
- Reconnect with friends and family – after so long apart, spending time together can be a huge boost to our mood.
- Do something they love and follow their passion, whether that’s tennis or knitting!
- Communicate regularly – if they are struggling, encourage them to open up to someone they trust, whether that’s you, their family or a friend.
- If they have an ongoing health condition and haven’t already, they should speak to their GP or medical practitioner, and not feel they have to put up with it as there may be treatment that could help.
- Have regular private 121s with their manager to discuss how they are getting on at work and to ask if they need further training.
- Meditation or wellbeing apps such as Headspace can clear your mind and build resilience.
What should I do if an employee has a mental health issue?
Prevention is always preferable, but if an employee discloses a mental health condition to you, ask open and non-judgemental questions. Find out the facts without making assumptions, so that you can be flexible in how you support their needs. A tailored, individual approach is more effective than one-size-fits-all.
Equally if an employee does not want to discuss their mental health, wait for them to be ready. Forcing them to talk about the issue when they are not comfortable can make things worse. Instead, reassure them that you are open to an honest conversation and happy to support them through any difficult periods.
Once the employee has raised a mental health issue with you, develop a support and action plan together to enable them to continue working effectively while ensuring their wellbeing. There may be much you can do to relieve some of their stress, such as encouraging them to access support or contact a doctor, or making reasonable adjustments – the action plan will very much depend on their particular circumstances.
Set a date to review the action plan in case more changes need to be made. Perhaps changing job role or hours temporarily might help reduce their stress? Do remember that the employee should not feel penalised in any way.
Finally, reassure them that any disclosures you share will be treated confidentially. You should discuss with them any information they would like to be shared with colleagues and how, as this can be very supportive for some people.
For expert HR advice or support, contact Business Garage on [email protected] for a free consultation.
Business Garage helps SME’s who are struggling with their business operations who want their HR or Finance function to run more smoothly. We are trusted partners because of our extensive commercial expertise and real business acumen, so we can add value to your business and save you time and money.
Oxfordshire Mind (local mental health charity) – https://www.oxfordshiremind.org.uk/
Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/
Saneline – www.sane.org.uk
Relate (relationship support) – www.relate.org.uk