Mental Health in the WorkPlace has hit the news again this week, with The Duke of Cambridge talking on this subject to employers and employees from a range of British businesses.
I wrote a blog post on this subject back in May, but it bears repeating as there are things we can all be doing to help people cope. Employers, in particular, can make small changes which will have a huge impact. And why wouldn’t you, when it can also have a huge and beneficial impact on productivity and costs in your Organisation?
What can an employer do to improve mental health in the workplace?
Any organisation can – and should -create a Mental Health plan and then follow it and communicate it to all employees. Here are some suggestions to help you to improve the mental health of your employees and to combat mental health issues at work:
- Create an open atmosphere where people feel they can talk about such issues. You can do this by making employees aware of what help is available and where they can access it. Facilitate open discussions amongst employees.
- Ensure you offer enough breaks from work and make sure people take them. When we get engrossed in a piece of work, it is easy to skip lunch, or work late. But this can be counter-productive and lead to other problems. Make sure people take regular breaks from work and have a change of scene. Try and encourage a good work-life balance – and LEAD BY EXAMPLE. If people see you working all hours and not taking breaks, they will follow your lead as they will think that is what you expect of them as well.
- Try and give people interesting, varied work which they can excel at. This will increase their sense of worth and happiness at work.
- Praising people when they do well, exciting them about challenges and opportunities, recognising them when they do well. All of these will help to prevent mental health problems from occurring in the first place.
Supporting those with Mental Health issues
- Think about appointing some Mental Health “First Aiders” or mentors. They can act as a first port of call when somebody is in urgent need of support. As well as urgent issues, they can provide support and mentoring to those who have issues but feel they cannot approach you or their manager. You would need to train these people, but it would be an investment well worth making.
- If you manage people, or have line managers who support teams, then train the managers to recognise mental health problems and in how to manage such conversations.
- The Mental Health Foundation provides a series of guides about dealing with mental health problems. You can download these at no cost. Or you could order some paper copies to keep in the workplace for anyone who needs them.
- If someone does disclose that they have a mental health problem, it could be made worse by other things. Things such as money worries, fear of losing job, fear of taking time off, fear of talking about it. Investigate gently with the individual – there might be something you can do to help with those concerns.
- Offer access to a counselling service or at least a helpline.
- If possible, provide a telephone in a private area, where an employee can ring a helpline or contact a charity for some help in an urgent situation.
- Many Mental Health charities can provide support to you and your employees. Investigate the options which work for you and your company and provide details to your employees. Provide a list of those charities to any employee who discloses they have a mental health issue. There is a huge amount of help available for those who need it.