However, for those running a small business, the rewards may be overshadowed by these problems and it can be hard to know how to tackle the issue.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding mental health. In order to provide proper support for those struggling, it is important to remove this stigma and put measures in place to protect people in the workplace.
However, with a lot of people finding it difficult to open up about their mental wellbeing problems, it falls on employers to offer support.
Looking At Mental Health In The Workplace
In days gone by, employers may have placed a focus on physical health, but many employees are now more concerned with how their mental health is functioning and companies should be paying attention to this.
1. The Cause
There are many ways in which mental health can be negatively impacted. One of the key aspects when attempting to tackle this in the workplace is to look at what may have caused the problem.
It could be related to stress in the workplace, poor staff relationships, or staff being concerned about how their managers and co-workers may react to their cognitive conditions.
2. The Impact
The impact of poor mental health can be devastating to employees but there is also a direct impact for small businesses including higher staff turnover, a lack of productivity, and more sick days.
It is essential that employers are able to effectively remove the stigma and encourage workers to open up about their issues as well as being sure that the subject is handled sensitively and support is provided.
3. Why Look At It Now?
Modern life and the stresses it brings makes placing a focus on mental health more important than ever since problems are much more likely to arise. It is important to provide employees with support and encourage their mental wellbeing in order to have a thriving and successful workplace.
Most people have a friend, family member, or colleague that suffers from a mental health problem, and the number of people experiencing problems is growing rapidly. It is, therefore, extremely important to address the issue to prevent it from worsening over time.
Why Does Good Mental Health Matter: The Business Case
Many people will be affected by mental health at some point in their lives, whether personally or helping a loved one to deal with their problems and where a business is concerned. There are many reasons to ensure that employees’ wellbeing is looked after which are listed below:
It is astonishing to learn that the cost of mental health to businesses is as high as £1200 per employee annually, this equates to as much as £42 billion - which is a staggering figure. Addressing the problem, could significantly lower these figures.
Without proper management of mental health in the workplace, employee engagement could be negatively affected. Research shows that there is a direct link between employee engagement and absences which means that it makes sense for companies to stay on top of engaging with their staff.
In the United Kingdom, it has been demonstrated that sick days are mostly caused by mental health and stress problems.
In many cases, this is reflected in long-term periods of absence for up to four weeks. This is costing businesses substantially between £1100 and £1800 per employee, per year.
One way that businesses are affected by mental health is when staff turn up to work whilst they are not well which can translate into lack of productivity. It is, therefore, important that businesses are able to offer support in allowing time off and returning to work to avoid the rising cost of presenteeism which is currently exceeding the cost of absences.
What's more, when employees feel as though they have to go to work despite their problems with mental health, this can exacerbate their condition which leads to poor decision making, a lack of motivation, and increased conflict with co-workers amongst other things.
If mental health is not effectively managed in the workplace there is a greater risk of businesses losing their most valued members of staff. Studies have shown that those struggling with mental health may lose their job more than twice as often as those who are mentally healthy.
It has been shown that the most frequent cause of conflict within the workplace is related to stress and if mental health isn't managed, this could cause additional problems. For example, strained relationships in the wider team.
Action Plan If You Suspect Someone Is Struggling With Mental Health
Communication is key when facing mental health and if one of your staff discloses a problem to you or you suspect they may be struggling, you should follow these steps:
- Find a private and safe place to talk about the issue. It may be advantageous to choose a place that is on neutral ground as this can feel less threatening
- Be sure to keep an open mind and not make any assumptions. It is important to allow the person to talk freely and without judgement
- Your staff should know that when they talk to you, they do so in confidence and that anything they say will not be disclosed elsewhere
- Be willing to be flexible in the kind of support you will offer – there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to mental health
- If you are concerned about how the staff member has been performing at work, it is important to address this opening, honestly and supportively
- Develop an action plan with the employee that details the cause of their problems, triggers, and how their work may be affected as well as the support that will be offered and a date for review.
- Be reassuring and encourage the team member to seek professional help and advice
Questions To Ask And Questions To Avoid When Broaching Mental Health At Work
It is important to approach mental health in the correct way if support and understanding are to be given. Here are some questions that you can ask when broaching the subject of mental health.
- I had noticed you have been getting to work late, is everything OK?
- What would you like to happen and how?
- Have you visited your doctor or looked for help elsewhere?
- What kind of support do you think would help you?
- I’ve noticed that you have seemed a little upset/angry/frustrated – is there anything I can do?
However, there are also questions that you should avoid asking or consider the wording in a different way. These might include any of the following:
- You’re obviously not alright – what’s up?
- Can’t you just sort yourself out?
- What is going on with you? Your performance really has not been acceptable.
- You’re not the only one dealing with this problem so what’s the issue?
- Are you expecting someone else to pick up your workload?
Steps To Improving Mental Health In The Workplace
With as many as one in four people struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression in the workplace, it is important for employers to take steps to prevent this. Take a look at the steps below to see how you can easily implement these strategies:
For business owners, establishing a strong role as leader and influencer is integral to any role. But in terms of mental health, it's important to appear as a person too - not just someone your employees work with.
One of the best ways to tackle problems with mental health is to talk to other people about how you are feeling and this is something that employers can offer to their staff.
It can be difficult for people to open up so offering a non-judgemental and supportive ear can be the difference between the person recovering and not. It is also important to encourage people to seek professional advice and support as an additional way of opening up about their struggles.
While talking about personal issues or family problems may be too intense for some, talking about work may be more of a comfortable zone. Studies have shown that workplaces who discuss their workload with one another achieve better results, have a higher team spirit, and have fewer issues in the work environment relating to stress, falling out, and absence.
Workloads, deadlines, or complicated processes we do not understand as employees can sometimes take its toll on our mental health. Make sure your team knows that if they are struggling, they can just approach you about work-related issues.
Many people have undergone physical first aid training but more and more employers are noting the importance of mental health first aid which helps people develop an understanding of what to do in a crisis.
It will also allow employees to learn how to talk about mental health in the most effective way as well as equipping them with the necessary knowledge to protect their own mental health.
Practical Adjustments To Help Employee Mental Health
In order to ensure the best mental health of all the employees within a business, it is important to be flexible in a practical sense. You should be prepared to make adjustments to make recovering from a mental health condition or managing it on a daily basis, easier. This might include some of the following things:
- A change to working hours – different start or finish times, breaks at different times or altering the days worked
- A change to the workspace, for example moving into a quieter office or using dividers
- Being able to work from home
- Access to more light
- Allowing time off to attend appointments
- Giving staff access to mental health support services
- Allocating tasks differently
- Altering the duties of staff members to lower stress levels
- Employing a mentor or giving additional supervision from those in higher roles
- Self-care advice
- Regularly reviewing staff member’s wellbeing and offering a chance to discuss any problems
Preventing Stress In The Workplace
It is vital that supervisors, executives and line managers are able to effectively reduce stress levels in employees by being open, honest, and consistent. They should also be effective at handling conflicts and building strong relationships with staff.
What’s more, they should have a good knowledge of mental health and be able to offer support for personal development.
Failure to provide an informative and positive induction to the workplace can raise the risk of stress in employees. The induction should cover a variety of topics such as a one-to-one meeting with managers, information on health and safety, details of their job role, a tour of the workplace, and any other relevant information to make the transition into work as seamless as possible.
2. Managing People
Not only does good management mean less stress but it can also build stronger and healthier relationships between employers and their staff. As a result of this, productivity and motivation are raised.
But more importantly, this relationship will mean that managers are more easily able to spot the signs of the onset of a mental health condition and can address it quickly offering support to the staff member.
3. Building Resilience
Managers can provide employees with strategies for coping and for building resilience. This should be done both as part of a team as well as individuals and can also take on an approach from an organisational level.
Managers can lead by example and review the wellbeing of the entire team as well as offering risk assessments relating to stress across the board.
Top Tips For Employees For Staying Well At Work
Are you feeling the strain of an increasing workload, or are struggling with some issues at work? Below we have listed some tips for you:
- Reclaim your lunch break – be sure to take at least half an hour for lunch and try to fill it with activities that will allow you to relax between jobs. For example, going outdoors to eat or taking part in a group activity
- Get your work/life balance right – by making sure you do not consistently stay late and keep a to-do list of tasks to help you stay on track. Additionally, you should ensure that there are boundaries between work and your home life and never be scared to ask for help if you need it
- Connect with others – this is proven to have a positive effect on your emotional health. For example, rather than sending an email, try speaking to someone directly or perhaps try engaging in a meaningful conversation with someone you don’t usually talk to
- Be active to ensure your overall wellbeing – this could include taking the stairs or doing some office yoga. Perhaps you might take a walk on your lunch break
- Take notice and make sure that you regularly check in with yourself. Being aware and staying in the moment is proven to help and it can also help to take notice of how your colleagues are coping
Reaching Out For Help With Mental Health
The government has recognised that depression is the top mental health issue and is costing businesses up to an 8% lack of productivity. But this could be addressed by encouraging staff to reach out for help and there are various options for this.
- FSB Care is a service offered to members of FSB and provides advice on general wellbeing as well as that which is tailored to specific health conditions
- FSB legal helpline operates on a 24-hour basis and gives advice to small businesses from law professionals regarding health and safety in the workplace
- Public Health England supports the NHS, the government and other organisations in promoting better health for the nation and offer a variety of tools for addressing and managing mental health both in and out of the workplace
- The Institute of Personnel and Development is an organisation which helps human resources professionals and they provide a range of advice on stress, mental health and other factors that may affect the workplace
- The Scottish Association for Mental Health offers more than 60 community-based services across Scotland, each focusing on different areas such as addiction, homelessness, and employment. Their wellbeing tool allows you to monitor your overall wellbeing
- Inspire, Northern Ireland gives advice and support on a range of learning difficulties and mental health problems and are able to offer support to businesses looking to develop a mental health plan
- Mental Health First Aid England has just shy of 2000 instructors who provide education on mental health and wellbeing. They offer a variety of courses spanning from half days to two days