How to manage employee mental wellbeing

Here are some tips on supporting employee mental health

In spite of growing awareness and an increase in the number of reported incidents of people having a mental health episode while in employment, 63% of businesses say that more knowledge of both the business case and ‘duty of care’ is needed for them to manage mental health issues in the workplace and ensure mental wellbeing.

Mental health is a sensitive and nuanced subject and not an easy one to manage at any level of an organisation. It is often impossible to tell that someone has mental health challenges unless they have previously disclosed or until a situation arises.

Employees often only raise mental health issues with their employer during a formal disciplinary or performance procedure, and frequently cite their mental health as the reason for the alleged misconduct or poor performance, creating a tricky path for employers to navigate.

How to start on mental wellbeing

Organisations can make a start on improving employee mental wellbeing by:

  • Creating a Mental Health at Work action plan
  • Making sure that workers know about mental health
  • When workers are finding things hard, giving them the chance to talk about mental health and the help and support they can get
  • Making sure workers have control and a sense of purpose about their work
  • Making sure managers and supervisors manage people properly
  • Making regular checks on workers’ mental health and wellbeing

1. Take organisation wide approaches

These include:

  • Flexible working
  • Line manager training
  • Workshops/seminars
  • Engagement and communication
  • Evaluating ROI

HR professionals or people managers can revert to their company’s policies and core values along with the legal frameworks (Common Law, Health & Safety at work, Equality Act, Employment Rights Act) when dealing with an employee mental wellbeing issue. However, it can be challenging to decide how to balance the needs of the individual and business against these company values and legal frameworks.

There are small steps an organisation can take to help mitigate the risk of an individual’s mental health becoming an issue at work. These points are below:

2. Watch out for early signs of mental health issues

These include:

  • Concerns from colleagues and/or clients and customers
  • Changes in behaviour or approach to work
  • Psychological symptoms – anxiety or distress, mood changes, indecisions, loss of motivation, loss of humour, increased sensitivity, distraction or confusion and memory lapses
  • Behavioural symptoms – withdrawal from office life, irritability, over-excitement, lateness, working far longer hours, obsessive activity, uncharacteristic errors, risk-taking and disruptive behaviour
  • Physical symptoms – fatigue, appetite changes and visible tension

3. Implement a strategy for promoting mental wellbeing

This includes:

  • A risk assessment of potential work-related causes of mental health issues in your organisation
  • Encouraging the use of mental health well-being plans for staff across all levels of the business
  • Identifying training needs for line managers to spot and deal with issues
  • Creating internal support networks where issues can be discussed openly
  • Ensuring that any strategy has senior management buy-in and consider appointing mental health champions (ideally someone at a senior level)

4. Implement initiatives to support staff

This includes:

  • Agreeing on personal mental health management plans
  • Identifying sources of support, whether internal (e.g. a buddy system) or external (such as EAP, financial support for counselling)
  • Making use of flexible absence policies
  • Speaking to Mind and other organisations for guidance and advice
  • Returning to work meetings and keeping in regular contact

In this article, you learned that:

  • It can be hard to tell that someone has mental health issues unless it has been disclosed
  • You can make company-wide changes to boost staff mental health including flexible working,
    line manager training and starting workshops
  • Behavioural symptoms include withdrawal from office life, irritability, over-excitement, lateness, working far longer hours, obsessive activity, uncharacteristic errors, risk-taking and disruptive behaviour
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