How to Manage Mental Health in the Workplace

Every year, literally millions of working days are lost due to mental health related issues, and over a third of workers have considered leaving their job due to stress.

Investors in People commissioned research for Stress Awareness Week towards the end of 2019. The findings revealed that 79 per cent of people had experienced stress at work, and 35 per cent had thought about leaving. 78 per cent of those polled admitted to being less productive when they felt under stress, with pressures stemming from the likes of poor working environments, under-equipped managers, tight deadlines and heavy workloads.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), during the period 2017-2018, 15.4 million working days were lost to mental health related issues. Also revealed was the fact that many workers find it difficult to leave their problems in the workplace, with 54 per cent saying they had experienced work related stress at home.

Other key findings of the research include:

  • My employer does not support my mental well-being - 27 per cent
  • My workplace has a culture of openness around mental health - 30 per cent
  • I would rather have workplace support for mental health than a 3 per cent pay rise - 20 per cent

Workplace mental health policies should be central to brand values

Chief executive officer of Investors in People, Paul Devoy, said, "We want HR managers to feel empowered in their ability to design mental health policies as standard in their workplace. This should not just be an afterthought or a 'nice to have' but central to a company's brand values. Business leaders who fail to see the importance will suffer with high staff turnarounds and difficulty in recruiting the right talent as the demand for support continues to increase."

Investors in People also suggested that employers should properly train their management staff in how to support the mental health of their teams, placing focus on listening to what worries them, adopting a flexible attitude and making sure that solutions are tailored to the needs of the individual. An open culture should also be promoted so that staff feel comfortable in asking for help when they need it.

The stark fact is that mental health issues that are left unmanaged can lead to suicide. And there are indirect concerns that must be considered too. Poor mental health at work can result in reduced concentration, which can lead to more accidents and lowered productivity.

Mental health charity Mind says that poor mental health affects half of all employees. Their survey of 44,000 people revealed that of those who had experienced issues with stress, low mood or anxiety, only half had approached their employers for help. The charity also reported that in the region of 300,000 people lose their jobs each year in relation to poor mental health.

How employers can provide support with mental health

The HSE launched a campaign to help manage the risks of stress in the workplace. Shine a Light on Work Related Stress offers a suite of resources designed to assist employers in undertaking a stress risk assessment, and to demonstrate how other employers are successfully managing the problem.

The Equality Act 2010 provides that no member of staff can be discriminated against due to mental health issues if those issues are classed as a disability. To be classed as such, the condition must have a substantial, adverse and long term effect on the individual's ability to undertake everyday activities. If an employer is notified by the individual of their disability, then protection is afforded under the Act.

So, for the benefit of staff well-being, and regulatory compliance, employers should take steps to ensure they promote good mental health at work. Tactics may include:

  • Appointing a workplace mental health first aider
  • Mental health training for managerial staff
  • Promoting a supportive, open culture
  • Providing access to counselling helplines
  • Sharing mental health resources
  • Encouraging staff to take regular breaks, to leave on time and use their leave allowance
  • Educating staff on the benefits of stress-reducing activities, for example sports, walking in nature, socialising, getting plenty of sleep and volunteering

Make today the day you do something about workplace mental health

Good mental health amongst staff means heightened productivity and creativity. It is in your best interests as an employer to make sure your workforce is not suffering in silence. Take steps today to support your staff and make sure they come to work and return home in a positive frame of mind every day.

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