Mental Health at Work – Here’s How You Can Help

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In this article, we explore how to promote good mental health at work. Mental health is a complex issue brought to the forefront in recent months. Yet, it is a difficult subject to consider. The prospect of mental health issues is disquieting, whether you are experiencing them yourself or trying to support others.

As mental health issues are often cumulative, it is easy to discount symptoms. Even when symptoms escalate, they are much easier to ignore or misdiagnose. Nevertheless, like all problems, they do not go away on their own.

How Do We Define Mental Health?

Mental health can be defined as follows:

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.”

The mental health charity Mind reports that:

  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England
  • 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England

Mental health is an aspect of our health care often neglected, and individuals suffering from mental health issues may ignore symptoms or shy away from seeking help for various reasons.

Mental Health at Work

Prolonged stress at work may result in the aggravation of pre-existing mental health problems or the development of new ones. This is more likely to occur in extreme circumstances such as a significant change in workload or working conditions, as we have all experienced in the last 14 months.

It is, therefore, all the more important that employers are:

  • Aware of the symptoms associated with mental health issues
  • Sympathetic to the sensitivity of the matter
  • Able to provide a suitable support mechanism

Research carried out by Mind discovered that:

  • 30% of employees disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
  • 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the proper training or guidance
Employers need to: understand their responsibilities concerning the mental health of their workforce, understand the signs of stress and mental health issues, and provide confidential support that can be taken up confidentially.

What Are Your Responsibilities As An Employer?

Employers have a responsibility under both the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to assess and minimise the risk of stress-related illness.

However, promoting good mental health among your workforce is more than just your legal responsibility and benefits more than just your employees.

Ensuring good mental health at work will:

  • Improve employee/ team and company performance
  • Reduce costs associated with absences and higher staff turnover

The Mental health charity, Mind, discovered that:

  • Over one in five people (21%) said they had called in sick to avoid work because of workplace stress
  • 14% said they quit their job, and 42% has thought about quitting due to workplace stress

What Can You Do to Help As An Employer or Manager?

Be aware of the symptoms of stress and other mental health issues, and ensure you take a
proactive approach to the management of your workforce.

The most obvious symptoms of stress in a working environment are likely to be:

  • Reduction in performance levels
  • Resistance to communicate, mainly via telephone or in-person

The best things you can do as an employer relate to good staff management practices.

Make yourself visible to your workforce. While people like to feel trusted to work independently, they also want to be managed; it reinforces the appreciation of their worth.

Engage with your workforce via phone calls and meetings; you don’t have to micro-manage but maintain a good level of contact, that way, you are much more likely to be aware of issues or be present at a time when an employee needs to reach out.

Stick to scheduled events such as annual appraisals, which promote employee importance and provide a vehicle for their feedback in an event dedicated to their role in your business. It also allows you to better understand your staff and learn their strengths, thus harnessing their full potential.

Lastly, while personal issues are out of the control of an employer, they undoubtedly impact a person’s working life and cannot be ignored entirely. While you are not responsible for a person’s personal issues, being aware of them as an employer is not a bad thing and promotes a better understanding of your staff. Our personal and professional lives are intrinsically linked, and the circumstances of each impact our performance in both.

Ensuring that you are acting as an effective manager may address many people’s stress in the work environment. However, there are other support mechanisms you can provide for more significant issues.

Providing Specialist Support

Some organisations shy away from offering mental health support. It may be for fear of costs, particularly at a time when businesses are struggling to stay in business, or from a lack of understanding on how to tackle mental health matters.

Others may try and utilise existing resources such as HR that may not be set up or qualified to address these kinds of issues.

This is a specialist area requiring appropriate knowledge to provide the right level of support. It is unfair to expect unqualified people to offer mental health support and unlikely to be effective at addressing issues.

In addition, internal mental health facilities may not be taken up by employees for fear of exposure within their organisation.

There are numerous resources available for providing mental health support, many of which are free. We have included some of them in the next section with relevant links for more information.

For a longer-term solution, you may consider a change in workplace culture. Many organisations have taken to embracing activities such as meditation among their teams, promoting group or individual meditation during the working day. If you are interested in finding out more about this click here.

Alternatively, you may choose to commission a life coach to work with your team. This is a proactive approach to personal development and can have a positive impact on all aspects of your team’s development and ability to deal with work challenges.

Mental Health Support Resources

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