Let’s start with a couple of stats that may well surprise you (they did us). In a recent survey, 42% of workers had considered resigning due to stress in the workplace and 14% had actually gone on to hand their notice in. A bigger problem than you might have imagined and, as we will explain, not just for those suffering from mental health issues.
Here’s a helpful 5-step guide to some of the things you can do as an employer to maintain good levels of mental health in your business to protect your workforce and your company’s productivity:
1. Understanding the problem
Considering how much time we spend at work, it’s not surprising that it can have a big affect on our mental wellbeing. Enlightened bosses understand their staff will perform better when they feel confident, motivated and focused on the job. By looking after employees’ mental wellbeing, employers can ensure their staff perform at their best.
The fact is, if you do not invest in mental health, you are likely to lose valued employees. Staff turnover, including recruitment costs as a result of employees leaving their jobs due to mental health problems, costs businesses in the UK a whopping £2.4 billion each year.
2. Creating the right environment
56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t know how. If that sounds like you, a good place to start is the website of Mind, the mental health charity. You’ll find all kinds of helpful information and advice there.
Strong leadership and a positive work culture are key to giving employees the security they need. Employers, especially line managers, need to take the first step by making it clear that mental health is taken seriously at your company. Employees need to know that opening up about an issue will lead to support, not discrimination. A simple way to communicate this is by explaining that mental health is treated with the same level of importance in your company as physical health. That’s clear and easy to understand.
Encouraging a good work/life balance and transparent working relationships, and supporting flexible working practices will also have a positive impact.
If you can develop an open and supportive culture, staff should feel confident enough to talk to managers about mental health issues. But any changes needed won’t happen overnight, so don’t expect too much too soon.
3. Good management leads to good mental health
As improving your company culture can be a long-term project, the short-term responsibility for maintaining good mental health mainly sits with your line managers.
Good managers help employees look after their workloads and promote a culture of open dialogue. Regular one-to-one meetings help build trust and give employees a chance to raise any issues they might have as early as possible.
Many people find it hard to ask for help when they’re struggling. That’s why it’s vital that managers regularly ask their staff how they’re getting on.
4. Spotting mental health problems
So, what are the signs of mental health issues? Clues might include changes in people’s mood or how they interact with colleagues or issues with their work output or focus.
Always remember, everyone’s experience of mental health problems is different and the signs could be hard to notice. That’s why it’s so important to create a work environment where people feel comfortable approaching their line manager to discuss their issues.
If you think someone in your team may be suffering with mental health problems, you
might need to start the conversation as many employees won’t feel comfortable bringing it up themselves. You might be nervous about finding the best way to open a mental health conversation with an employee, but no special training or skills are needed. Just use your common sense.
The important thing is that you never ignore a problem, if you sense one. If you don’t act promptly, the problems can escalate and this can have a negative impact on both the individual and your business.
5. Helping staff with mental issues
Supporting those with mental health problems won’t just result in your organisation retaining valuable staff members. This action also sends out a positive message about your company values to other staff and even people outside the business.
As everyone’s mental health problems are different, treat people as individuals and focus on the person, not the problem. Work with your employee to develop a plan which details their mental health problem, stress triggers, the possible impact on their work, who to contact in a crisis and what support they need.
The priority is to look for ways to address the specifics issues the employee is struggling with. Your solutions could just involve tweaking the job role or offering a little extra support. The good news is that often all that’s needed is a change of attitude or improved communication rather than anything big or costly.