According to the mental health charity, Mind, roughly 1 in 6 workers in the UK are dealing with mental health problems including anxiety, depression, or stress which can easily prevent your workers from being efficient and performing at their best.
Obviously, when staff are feeling motivated, organisations perform better as they’re the wheels that keep a business moving in the right direction. Employers who are engaged with their staff’s wellbeing are able to offer better support and can be a key driving force behind how well, and quickly, an employee can get back to work.
Standing by an individual who’s dealing with a mental health concern also says a lot about a company’s culture and creates a precedent for other members of staff who will see that your company is acting with integrity by valuing staff members.
Of course, you can’t be expected to know the ins and outs of every employee’s personal life, but whilst they’re in the workplace, there are steps you can take to support staff with their mental health, whenever they may need it. We’ve put together some helpful tips about how your workplace can support staff.
1. Create a Culture that Allows Staff to be Open About Their Mental Health
All too often in the workplace, employees are scared about telling their manager they are experiencing mental health problem – which in fact, can make the entire problem so much worse. In order to combat this, it’s important to send a clear signal to staff that their mental health is just as important as their physical health.
Your company can back this up by creating a mental health strategy, including specific policies to ensure employees will get the help they need, rather than being faced with unanswerable questions when someone reaches out for support.
2. Listen to Your Staff and Respond with Reassurance
No two mental health problems and symptoms are the same, so by focusing on the person rather than the problem you can adapt your support to suit them best. Involving the staff member within each step of the process, they will feel valued, and you’ll be able to find the best solution to any difficulties they might be experiencing.
Whilst speaking to your employee, remember to take your time and allow them to take a moment if need, or step back if they’re not ready to fully talk about it. If this is the case, it’s important to outline all the available support and options and make it clear they can speak to you whenever they need to.
Be honest and clear about expectations and whether there are any grounds for concern, such as high absence or poor performance. Tell them there’s nothing to worry about at this stage, however, it can be revisited at a later date. Remember to be positive, focus on what the employee CAN do rather than can’t and work closely with the employee to find the best solutions for them.
3. Develop a Personalised Action Plan for Employees
Creating an action plan will allow you and your employee to identify the signs of their mental health problem and how the workplace affects their wellbeing. An action plan should also consider any triggers, stressors, symptoms, the impact they have on work performance, who to contact in an emergency, and what support they may need going forward to allow the employee to make positive steps to get back on track.
Remember employees can really benefit from some practical advice from their manager, which in turn, can help them to feel supported and like they have a trusted ally in the busy workplace that they can turn to. Where possible, all employees should be offered this personalised action plan, which also sends a clear message that employee wellbeing is being taken seriously.
Additionally, a part of the action plan should involve encouraging your employee to seek advice from their GP, including medication and therapy. However, when talking about an employee’s medical history, try to keep any questions to a minimum and allow your employee to open up to you if they’re comfortable in doing so.
4. Have Support Guides, Resources, and Trained Staff in Place
The best way a company can truly support employees is to understand how poor mental health can impact a person’s wellbeing. Staff training is a vital role, which will give managers and employees alike the necessary tools to support a worker who may be struggling with their mental health.
According to the mental health charity, Mind, 56% of employers would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel like they have the right training or guidance.
However, there are plenty of guides and resources available, like these ones from Mind, that offers detailed information about mental health – including how to remove the stigma attached to mental health in the workplace, and the tools needed to start supporting your employee’s wellbeing.
5. Assess Potential Workplace Adjustments
Workplace adjustments don’t need to be costly or disruptive, here are some suggestions which could help your employee:
- Flexible hours – For shift workers, you can also split up their days off to make their workweek feel shorter and give some breathing room.
- The opportunity to work from home – Or again, for shift workers, planning their rota in advance so they have a clear idea of when they will be expected to work.
- Changes in break times,
- Quiet rooms or spaces to help when feeling overwhelmed,
- A desk with more natural light to battle seasonal depression,
- Relaxing absence rules to help employees worry less,
- Phased return-to-work,
- Extra support with managing their workload and the reallocation of tasks where possible,
- More positive and thoughtful feedback,
- Reassessment of a person’s job role and duties,
- Regular opportunities to discuss and review mental health (say, weekly instead of monthly).
Of course, these are not the only approaches you can take, but creativity is key when thinking about how you can support your staff. Even the little things can go a long way.
Your Staff are an Essential Resource – Look After Them
By taking a positive stance on mental health, your employees will not fear the worst if they’re not feeling their best. If organisations work to support managers in providing more personalised, flexible support, it sends a clear message about the company values.
In many cases, creating a culture that rewards staff members for being honest about their mental health, rather than being left to suffer in silence can help to determine how quickly a valued staff member can get back to performing their duties that ultimately benefit the company.