Mental health awareness in the workplace – what employers can do.

Posted on 31 March

Mental health and wellbeing have always been somewhat taboo subjects, especially in the workplace. But of what benefit to your business is it to ignore the wellbeing of your staff? The short answer is none.

Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. One may feel in good mental health generally but also suffer stress or anxiety from time to time.

Studies last year showed that one in every six British workers will suffer with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and clearly unmanageable stress. What does this mean for your business? Well these types of wellbeing issues end up costing the UK economy around £26 billion through sickness, loss of productivity and staff turnover, not to mention your reputation as an employer can be quickly affected.

It can have an impact on any industry. It was only this year that it was estimated that the number of deaths from suicide in the construction industry could be 10 times higher than those from fatal accidents at work. Whilst awareness around the subject is now being raised around within these industries there is a lot that you can do.

It’s safe to say that employers and employees are still too scared to confront or discuss the issues. Both parties may feel embarrassed to discuss the problem they are dealing with or perhaps as an employer you are unsure how to approach the situation. Either way, ignoring it will not resolve the issue, in fact ignoring it will excel the issue eventually.

We’ve put together some helpful tips for you to take into consideration. Points that will hopefully help you as the employer identify who is suffering and how you can help. After all, happy staff = happy workplace/increased productivity.

  • Staff surveys - this is a brilliant way to ask all the questions you want the answers to. People feel more inclined to be honest when they can be anonymous. Use this to highlight the areas you can improve in the workplace.
  • Promote only positive workplaces – bullying is still here. Whether we are kids in the playground at school or sat as an adult at our office desk, it happens. Make it a clear no go, be vigilant with keeping an eye on your employee’s relationships and ensure you are approachable should an issue arise.
  • Work environment – Everyone is different. Some people are not affected by what others are very bothered by. Things such like room temperature, light exposure, desk setup, quiet or too loud. You can’t please everyone but you can meet in the middle with a lot of these conflicts and at least all employees feel accounted for if their opinion is accounted for.
  • Train managers to be able to identify mental health issues – there are courses that can be attended and online workbooks to help with the training in this. It’s imperative that as a manager or employer, you know how each employee is feeling at work on the regular.
  • Team bonding – self-explanatory but very necessary. Just like when you were a child in class, no one wants to be ignored or left out. It’s good to engage with all members of your team, arrange social nights out and make sure all can attend. If someone would like to go but cannot because of a commitment on the date chosen, try and accommodate to this so all employees are considered and feel included.
  • Workload – seems quite obvious but it’s so important to ensure that the workload given to the employee matches their abilities and experience. You cannot give someone a job they do not know how to do without any guidance and/or training. This brings on large amounts of stress and can take a knock on effect to the employees confidence of abilities. Damaging their work production in the future.
  • Clear defined roles – Be clear in what you want and expect from your employee. If they know what they have to do and when by, the job in hand is much more manageable. Ensure you are supportive and that they can approach you with any queries around the task in hand.
  • Encouragement and promotion of mental health awareness in the workplace – As we said earlier, it’s still quite the taboo subject meaning people are too scared to talk about their issues for fear of perhaps not being taken seriously. Just because mental health like stress is not a medicated diagnosed illness does not mean it is any less of a serious than one. Remove the taboo and you remove the problem of not talking about it.
  • Listen – it seems obvious but this one can get left behind quite often when the workload starts building up. Having a regular individual catch up with your staff will give you the chance to make yourself approachable. Perhaps you haven’t been around much for the past week, make the time to listen at that meeting.  Use this time wisely to talk about any issues within the workplace and any outside that they may feel comfortable to talk about.

Mental health and wellbeing for employees has quickly gone up on the workplace agenda for employers. After years of growing research studies have proved that it has a rather large impact on each and every workplace. As humans it is only natural that we at times bring our outside issues to work and let it have an effect on how we perform. Or perhaps the issue is rooted at the workplace itself. Staying alert, spotting the signs and acting on the behaviours will help your workplace mentality grow positively.