How can I look after my employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
To begin, I would ask you to not be afraid of the term ‘mental health’. We all have mental health, and it will move within a spectrum of good to poor on a regular basis. The factors that affect where we are on this spectrum will be linked to matters both inside and outside of work, and as an employer some of these things you may have control over but some you will definitely not.
A total of 91 million days are lost to mental health problems every year and nearly half of all long-term sickness absences are caused by a mental health problem (Centre for Mental Health, 2011). The Centre for Mental Health also estimates that the total annual cost of mental health problems at work is over £30 billion. It is not just absenteeism from work either, ‘presenteeism’ which is turning up for work when you are not well enough, is also an issue and has been estimated to cost £15.1 billion a year.
Did You Know?
1 in 5 people take a day off work due to stress
1 in 10 people have resigned a job due to stress, 1 in 4 have thought about it.
19% of staff feel they can’t speak to managers about stress at work.
25% of people we surveyed considered resigning due to stress.
56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don't feel they have the right training or guidance (Mind, 2014.)
So how can you help someone who maybe facing mental health difficulties in the workplace?
Having policies and procedures in place to support your staff if they unfortunately need to take time off work due to emotional difficulties is a necessity. There will be times when there is nothing the business can do to prevent someone from experiencing mental health difficulties and that individual will need time off to get better.
However, I would suggest that a more proactive approach to preventing these absences would be more beneficial to the individual, all employees, you and your business.
By recognising the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, having open and effective communication in place between staff and management and inviting a culture that supports mental health awareness are all steps that your business could put in place now.
Here are some practical suggestions to achieving this:
Individual roles, responsibilities and expectations should be made clear to everyone; regular one to ones and feedback is essential. Staff performing well should be acknowledged but staff members who appear to be struggling should be supported and provided with an opportunity for development.
Reasonable and agreed deadlines should always be set and where possible involve the employee in setting these.
Provide mental health training for managers and senior members of staff so they can recognise symptoms and feel competent in handling concerns with staff.
Consider staff that work in isolation, there should be clear lines of communication for lone workers, or you could introduce a staff-mentoring scheme to support each other in their roles.
Promotion of a supportive working environment where employees can talk openly about their mental health issues should be encouraged. Try holding monthly team meetings where stress management and staff wellbeing is specifically discussed and open dialogue encouraged. Alternatively organise newsletters, a forum or noticeboard where information can be shared and issues discussed.
Ensure staff have a point-of-contact when they need to discuss personal difficulties, depending on your business this could be a manager, HR, counsellor or contacting an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Make the contact/contact details clear and easy to locate so employees know where to go.
Work environments should be suitable and consideration given to noise, light and temperature, believe it or not, these can all have an impact on our wellbeing.
Encourage regular breaks especially for staff who spend most of their day in front of a monitor; 5 minutes to get some fresh air, chat with a colleague and eating lunch away from their desk are very simple but effective ideas.
Taking responsibility for our own wellbeing can also be encouraged, some suggested ways to improve our wellbeing is self-care, regular exercise, complimentary therapies, support groups, improved routine, rest and a good diet. If you are concerned about a member of staff I would advise you to encourage them to visit their GP to discuss options for support.
However, ensuring that quick, effective support is in place when someone needs to talk to a professional is undoubtedly the best approach to supporting your staff. Typically a GP referral to psychotherapy can take up to 6 months, sometimes longer, and in that time the issues are likely to progress or remain unresolved and cause further problems down the line.
At MF Counselling I am now offering a bespoke Employee Assistance Support Programme for your business, if you would like to discuss how I might be able to help you to support your staff wellbeing the workplace please get in touch today.
07805 756 132