Mental health awareness has grown in recent years, but it seems many employers still have a long way to go in giving their workforce the support they need. 1 in 4 British workers are affected by depression, stress and anxiety each year, according to Time to Change a mental health awareness project.
9 out of 10 people suffering from mental health problems admitted they had experienced stigma and discrimination based on their illness, and 48% said they wouldn’t discuss the issue with their employer.
In fact, 95% of employees calling in sick with stress make up a different excuse. The knock-on effect is also damaging to profit margins. Mental health is the leading cause of employee absence in the UK, costing businesses an average of £1,035 per employee per year.
More encouragingly, 500 organisations have made a pledge to end mental health stigma, with the likes of Frank Bruno, Ruby Wax, Denise Van Outen, and other celebrities supporting the Time to Change campaign.
But how can you move forward with mental health in the workplace?
Creating The Right Culture
- The first step is to create an open and honest culture that makes employees feel they can speak up:
- Make it clear your organisation takes mental health issues just as seriously as physical health problems.
- Ensure managers are briefed on how to handle employees who may be suffering.
- Allow adequate time for staff of all levels to have regular one-to-one meetings with their manager, which helps build trust and gives them the opportunity to speak up.
- Create a working environment that employees will feel good in by providing sufficient training to all staff, rewarding success, and setting realistic targets.
Spotting The Signs of Mental Illness.
No two mental illnesses are the same, and as people show signs in different ways, spotting them isn’t always easy. You may have noticed an employee is having mood swings or has suddenly started turning up to work late on a regular basis.
Perhaps their quality of work has slipped, or they have begun to take less care with their personal appearance. Depression, stress, and other mental illnesses can manifest themselves in many ways, with some showing only small signs. Getting to know your staff and spending more time with them will help you detect when something’s not quite right.
How to Approach Someone On The Topic of Mental Health
Approaching an employee you suspect is having problems related to mental health is rarely easy, but if it’s done in the right way, it can make a positive impact.
Here’s what to do:
- Arrange a discreet meeting with the individual somewhere private.
- Assure your employee the conversation is completely confidential.
- Show your concern for their well-being by briefly describing their change in behaviour or situations that have come to your attention.
- Be careful not to jump to conclusions or appear to accuse them of doing something wrong. Many employees worry they will be viewed unfavourably because of their illness.
- Let them talk, and listen.
- Assure them you are there to help and offer any support you can to accommodate their problems. This could be in the shape of a more flexible working pattern, a reduction in working hours or duties, or sick leave.
- If your employee seems unwilling to talk, let them know you are there to support them, should they ever need it.
By creating an accommodating working environment and allowing employees to feel comfortable, you can help cultivate a workforce willing to be open and honest when it comes to mental illness.
Jason Downes, MD of www.powwownow.co.uk