Mental health is a serious issue which people and businesses alike are starting to recognise.
In fact, work-related stress, anxiety and depression are among the biggest causes of work absences, accounting for 45% of total lost days in 2016.
To break that down further, according to the Health and Safety Executive, over 450,000 people experienced some form of mental health issues due to work-related stress in the same year.
As an employer, it’s vital to give your employees the guidance and support to live a healthy life. That’s both physically and mentally.
And that starts by making some minor adjustments within the workplace.
You can do this by keeping an eye out for small signs that indicate that an employee needs some extra help.
To give you a better understanding of the topic, we’ve put together a guide on what it is, how to deal with it and ways to reduce it all together.
What is mental health?
While most people will have heard of the term ‘mental health’, there’s still an alarmingly high proportion that isn’t exactly sure of what it entails.
In its most basic form, mental health can include the emotional, psychological and social well-being of an individual.
Those employees who suffer from a form of mental illness may find it hard to handle stressful situations, get along with other colleagues or make the right decisions. In other words, it impacts the way we think, feel and act.
Unlike other forms of well-known illnesses, mental health issues come and go, depending on the circumstances of the particular individual at that given time.
As an employer, all you can do is lay the foundations and provide them with the tools to reduce the symptoms and its frequency.
How can an employee’s mental health affect your business?
As a business owner, mental health can be hard to spot at times, as you can easily blame certain outcomes on other reasons.
But the fact is, mental health often acts as a trigger and can have a knock-on effect within a workplace.
ACAS recently highlighted some of the ways it can impact businesses and organisations, stating 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.
The study also found that stress is mainly accountable for long-term absences in manual and non-manual workers.
Practical ways to support employees’ mental health
As we previously highlighted in our blog on building a winning company culture, you should always let your colleagues know that your doors are open for a chat.
By giving your employees a clear path to express their feelings and concerns, without bias or prejudice, you may help to reduce any early signs of anxiety or stress.
One solution is to hold monthly informal meetings with every employee. This will give them an opportunity to voice their thoughts.
Alternatively, carrying out monthly anonymous surveys will give them a blank canvas to do the same. This is a good way to help employees who struggle to talk about how they really feel.
Just make sure your employees fill it out digitally so there are no issues with recognising someone’s handwriting.
Here are some example questions to get you started:
- How are you finding things at the moment?
- Is there anything I can do to help make your job easier?
- If you’re concerned about anything, what is it and how would you like me to resolve it?
- What support do you think might help?
- Would you say that you’re feeling quite stressed at work at the moment?
If an employee does open up about their mental health issues, you should respect them for doing so. Plus, give them the necessary support to help with it.
For instance, this could include giving them time off to attend regular medical appointments. You could also consider adjusting their job description to reduce their stressful tasks and letting them work more flexible or reduced hours.
If it’s feasible, providing an employee with further training, social support and the choice to transfer to another department or location could also help too.
Should an employee need to take time off, it’s super important to keep in contact with them on a regular basis. If you don’t, they could feel isolated, not valued and unwilling to come back to work.
Keeping in touch for a casual catch up will keep your relationship positive. This could also result in the employee thinking that work is actually a good thing for their mental health, instead of a hindrance.
Another way you can effectively deal with employees’ mental health issues is to provide a phased or therapeutic return to work programme.
This way, the employee won’t feel like they have jumped straight back into a pressured situation. Instead, they can combine a couple of working days with a guidance session every week.
Things to remember
The main element to consider is to be considerate through the whole process. Mental illness is a serious issue and can have a long-lasting negative impact on multiple individuals and the running of your business as a whole.
Provide the support and tools for your employees, and you’ll be rewarded in the long-run through hard-work and loyalty.
Find this article useful? Then you might enjoy our previous one: ‘6 Ways to Deal with Disruptive Employees’.
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