Today is World Mental Health Day and this year the focus is on wellbeing in the workplace. Since figures have shown that 1 in 4 people suffer every year in the UK, we’ve decided to take a look at the importance of wellbeing at work and the relevant steps you should take if you are managing someone with a mental health condition.
How to address mental health in the workplace
If you’re an employer and you are approached by an employee who is suffering with a mental health problem, it’s crucial you have the correct skills to be able to address this professionally. In the same way, if you’re the one who is suffering, the support you receive from your employer is a key factor in how quickly you are able to get back to peak performance.
Your company’s ethos and values says a lot about you as an organisation, so standing by your staff during troubled times shows that you not only value that member of staff but also that you are practicing your brand’s beliefs rather than just saying them. After all, actions speak louder than words.
Encourage a workplace culture that is open about mental health
For many sufferers, speaking out about a mental health condition can be a difficult task. Companies need to make it known to their employees that being open about mental health will lead to support, not discrimination. This, in turn, will give staff the confidence to speak openly about their issues in a positive and supportive environment.
Managers should be approachable and confident
Managers need to be confident about mental health problems so they can communicate with their staff in an educational and professional manner. Regular one-to-one meetings are great for keeping on top of how employees are feeling as it helps you to build trustworthy relationships between your colleagues. By having these meetings you are giving employees the chance to raise any issues they may have at an early stage in a way that makes them feel safe and secure.
Never dismiss your employee
As a manager it’s your job to show common sense, empathy, compassion and the ability to listen as a way to support your staff in any situation. If a member of staff approaches you about a mental health problem and you do nothing, the problem could spiral leaving a lasting negative impact on the individual and company.
However, if you know your staff well and you suspect someone is suffering, some clues might include:
– Changes in behaviour such as mood swings/how they interact with other colleagues
– Changes in motivation and focus levels
– Having trouble making decisions and being organised
– Appearing tired or withdrawn and losing interest in activities they previously enjoyed
– Changes in eating habits and increased drinking and smoking
How to have a conversation with someone about their mental health
– Choose a quiet and private place where the individual feels comfortable. Preferably outside of the working environment as this might take the pressure off.
– Encourage your employee to talk openly about how they are feeling. Some sufferers can feel vulnerable about admitting their struggles so it’s vital you make them aware that they have nothing to be afraid of.
– Be honest with your employee and address any concerns you may have at an early stage such as high levels of absence or impaired performance.
– Encourage your employee to seek advice. This could be through their GP, counselling or Occupational Health if your company offers this service.
– Discuss with your employee who this will be shared with. This information is sensitive and should be shared with as few people as possible but it’s important that the individual is aware of your policies and can trust you as an employer.
– Take action and create a plan to help your employee with their development. It’s important that you, as the employer, can identify signs of their mental health problem and how it can impact their stress levels and workload. The plan should also include regular reviews to check on the progress on the individual.
– Reassure the individual – even if they’re not ready to talk about it – so they know that the door is always open for them and that you can help them get the support they need.
Key ways to support someone with a mental health problem
Now that you have had the conversation with your employee about their mental health problem, the next stage is to develop some positive next steps. Having clear policies on workplace adjustments could really aid an individual’s development and it shows you are being proactive in your approach as a manager.
There isn’t a set list but below are a few options that might help:
– Staggered lunch breaks to give the individual a chance to take time out when they need it.
– Flexible working hours in case the individual is having a bad morning or would benefit from leaving early.
– Working from home to give the individual a change of environment – but in this instance, regular phone catch ups are paramount so they don’t feel isolated.
– Agreement to give the individual leave at short notice and time off for appointments related to their health such as therapy and doctor’s appointments.
– Changes to people’s daily tasks/reallocation of tasks to take the pressure off.
– Increased supervision, mentoring and training.
– Identifying a safe workspace for the individual so they can have time out and relax.
– Regular meetings where you discuss the individual’s achievements and progress to encourage positive self-esteem.
If you are managing someone in the workplace who is suffering with a mental health problem, but you’re not entirely sure how to go about it, these useful contacts will be a big help.
Remember that starting a conversation is the first step to show effective support and highlighting it will increase employee engagement, motivation and productivity. There is always a solution and as a manager, it’s your job to provide that solution in a way that suits the individual’s needs.
For further information on how you can support an employee who is suffering with a mental health condition, visit mind.org.uk/workplace.