Mental health in the workplace is a topic that is being talked about more and more at the moment. Awareness has generally improved and people are starting to realise the impact of stress within their jobs. Good mental health is extremely important so that we can lead the best life possible. It allows us to manage our emotions, maintain stable relationships, and carry out normal day-to-day activities. But are employers supporting mental health in the workplace enough?
Types of mental health conditions
The mental health charity Mind has carried out studies that show 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind. Mixed anxiety and depression are the most common diagnoses, followed by generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
That means in a small business, of say 20 employees, 5 of those are likely to be suffering from mental health problems. Quite a high proportion when you look at it like that, which is why it is so important that employers take all the steps they can to support their staff.
Stigma surrounding mental health
Whilst we are in an era where mental health is commonly discussed, there is still some stigma attached to it. A huge 9 out of 10 people with ill mental health have experienced discrimination in the workplace. It is often seen as an opportunity for staff to sit back and do nothing. Causing a decrease in the overall productivity of the business, and leading to increased staff turnover. The Mental Health at Work Survey also concluded that 62% of managers have had to put the interests of their organisation above staff well-being.
It seems that although awareness has increased, business owners are still struggling to manage employees with mental health conditions. 56% of adults within that report also said they would not hire someone with depression, even if they were the best candidate for the job. Simply because the increased number of work absences would cost the business money.
What can we do about it?
Employers need to be reminded that they have a duty of care towards their employees, in order to create a safe and healthy place of work. They should take the time to talk to their employees on a regular basis, and look out for warning signs of mental health issues. People still find it hard to talk about mental health issues, so having an open dialogue is extremely important. There should be systems in place so that employers can support team members who are in need.
There are quite a few simple steps that you can make in order to help employees who are struggling with mental health issues. Of course you need to talk with the individual to find out exactly what level of support they need from you, but here are some ideas:
- Allow flexible hours, or changes to start/finish times – they may struggle to get their mental health in order first thing in the morning.
- Allow them to work from home if they would find that easier. Be sure to have regular communication with them though, so they don’t feel isolated.
- Put together a return-to-work policy – consider a phased return to gradually build up their working hours.
- Relax absence rules – give them a bit more freedom if they need to take a day off if their mental health is flaring up.
- Be flexible in allowing them to leave at short notice for appointments related to their mental health, such as counselling.
It is also important to talk to the employee who is suffering to find out whether their mental health issue has been triggered by their job. Has the workload suddenly become so full-on it is unmanageable? Are they extremely stressed due to several looming deadlines? This is why it is essential to have an open dialogue with your employees so that you can try to understand why this mental health outbreak has happened, and how you can help. Remember that a healthy work-life balance is important both inside and outside of the workplace, in order to prevent your staff from burning out.
We would love to hear any ideas or suggestions you have for improving the mental health of employees in the workplace. Feel free to email them over to email@example.com.