World Mental Health Day was 10th October 2018, which got us thinking about how businesses can improve their employees’ mental health.

A happy workforce is a productive workforce – in an ideal world – and business owners and managers know the impact on the team if someone is miserable. But what if staff are hiding mental health problems out of anxiety that they might be judged, discriminated, or even terminated? Naturally people suffering from poor mental health may fear the worst, however, irrational.

Recent surveys by the mental health charity, Mind, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found shocking results. Poor mental health was cited as the most common reason for long-term sickness absence in the UK, and that 10% of employees rated their current mental health as poor or very poor. Over a quarter of these employees gave work problems as the cause, and a further half blamed problems both at work and outside of work.

While more and more employers are aware of mental health, fewer than half of employees believed that their employer is supportive towards mental health and were wary about raising an issue around excessive stress or poor mental health.

What can employers do to nurture mental health?

Employers can provide support and guidance to promote good mental health by following these initial steps:

  1. Senior management should take the lead in fostering a positive approach towards mental health, and create an open environment where employees feel able to approach managers. If employees can open up about mental health issues they are dealing with, you can put measures into place and provide support. In turn, this should reduce some of (or eliminate) the stress the employee is feeling.
  2. Create policies on mental health and communicate these to employees.
  3. Reward options can be used to promote good mental health. For example, an Employee Assistance Programme, life assurance, private medical insurance and subsidised gym membership? Health-improving benefits such as subsidised gym membership, eyecare benefits, free fruit, flu injections and health screening have become more popular. With these benefits, employers aim not just to incentivise staff, but also to reduce absenteeism (especially flu injections during the winter months) by enabling their staff to stay healthy. Be prepared to brief employees on tools which will be helpful to them.
  4. Managers should hold regular catch-ups with your team, ideally on a one-to-one basis, to check how they are getting on and whether there any issues, personal or work-related. Keeping these conversations informal and confidential, in a private meeting room, can help the employee to share concerns.
  5. If an employee discloses a mental health problem 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. This may include encouraging your employee to contact their GP or other support organisations as appropriate.
  8. 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? Although it is important that the employee should not feel penalised in any way.

For more HR guidance or support, contact our experts at Business Garage on [email protected] or 01235 433099.

Resources:

Read our previous article on Wellbeing in the Workplace: https://businessgarage.co.uk/health-safety/wellbeing/

Mind, a mental health charity: https://www.mind.org.uk/

CIPD report: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/mental-health-support-report