Supporting Mental Health at Work

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Written by: Alcumus
30th September

It’s important that organisations of all sizes understand how to manage and support staff who are experiencing mental health conditions to promote positive mental health. A recent study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development highlighted the effects that mental health can have on people in the workplace.

It was found that:

  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
  • 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
  • 80% find it difficult to concentrate
  • 62% take longer to do tasks
  • 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.

Mental health issues can have a negative impact on productivity in the workplace, and these findings demonstrate that employees are not receiving the mental health support they need to be able to perform well in the workplace.

Deloitte recently conducted a survey of 202 UK employers, as part of their 2018 Global Human Trends report, which revealed that 36% offered mental health counselling to their staff. While this statistic may seem low, only 21% of organisations worldwide offered this support.

However, there is more that UK employers can do to support mental health, and in turn, improve staff morale, productivity and company profit. The Centre for Mental Health estimates the cost of mental health conditions to employers to be nearly £26bn per year. Implementation of the following tips will help the workplace become a safer place for employees dealing with mental health issues.

Create a culture of openness surrounding mental health

It’s important that organisations prioritise building a culture whereby employees feel comfortable to openly talk about their issues. Employers should:

  • Assure employees that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health
  • Implement strategies and policies that will instil confidence that health problems will be addressed and supported immediately.

This new culture won’t happen overnight. It will take time for employees to feel comfortable enough to come forward with a mental health problem, but it’s crucial that organisations do their utmost to break the silence on mental health in the work place.

Initiate a conversation with employees showing signs of mental health

As employees may not openly speak up about mental health issues, it’s crucial that employers take the lead if any mental health issues are suspected. You may suspect that an employee is suffering from mental health issues due to noticeable changes.

These may include:

  • Changes in behaviour, mood or interaction with colleagues
  • Changes in their work productivity, motivation levels and attention
  • Difficulty to make decisions, organise and find solutions to problems
  • Appearing anxious, tired or withdrawn
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities and tasks
  • Changes in eating habits and appetite
  • Changes in smoking and drinking habits.

If you identify any of these changes in your employees, take the lead by establishing open communication surrounding mental health. By doing so, you’ll make yourself more approachable and, in turn, provide employees with the opportunity to openly express how they feel.

Consider reasonable adjustments

As an employer, it is your duty to consider making reasonable adjustments for an individual who, to your knowledge, is experiencing a mental health problem.

Adjustments can make a world of difference to employees with mental health conditions, without having a direct impact on your organisation. Workplace adjustments can enable employees with mental health issues to stay in work without being too costly, disruptive or impractical for the employer to provide. Possible reasonable adjustments can include:

  • Allowing an employee time off work for medical appointments
  • Amending a job description to eliminate tasks that cause difficulty or stress
  • Increasing the frequency of supervision
  • Providing cognitive or social support
  • Providing support to address return to work barriers.

These adjustments can be made on a temporary or permanent basis, depending on the individual’s mental health.

Carry out return to work meetings following sickness

According to the Health and Well-Being at Work report carried out by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 91 million working days are lost each year due to mental health conditions. Therefore, it’s essential that employers conduct return to work meetings to monitor the wellbeing of employees and learn of any underlying reasons for absence.

Ensure that you always schedule a return to work meeting with your employee on return from a sickness absence to identify mental health conditions as early on as possible.

How Alcumus can help

As an employer, there is only so much that you can do to help employees who are suffering from mental health issues. While it’s fundamental that you work towards removing mental health stigma from the workplace and support the mental health and wellbeing of employees, ultimately these issues need to be handled with the support of HR Professionals.

To find out more about how Alcumus PSM, HR and H&S specialists, can help you promote wellbeing in the workplace, please contact a member of our specialist team on 01484 439930 or email [email protected].