Approaching mental health in the workplace

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Health Assured team

04 July 2022

Currently, 1-in-6 workers in the UK are dealing with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or stress. When overlooked, these mental health problems can lead to burnout, loss of concentration and poor decision-making amongst employees – limiting their ability to contribute meaningfully to their professional lives. 

Estimates show that approximately 12% of sick leave in the UK is attributed to some form of mental illness. As such, poor mental health can negatively impact your organisation, leading to a decrease in staff productivity and subsequently revenue. To counteract this, your organisation must tackle these issues head-on, supporting your staff – and your business. 

 

Identifying the symptoms

Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social status. They are often debilitating and can significantly limit your employee’s potential.

Due to the psychological nature of these problems, they are often invisible to the naked eye – making it difficult to know when your employees are suffering. To help you spot when your employees are struggling, we have provided some of the common signs and symptoms associated with mental illness: 

  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness 
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Excessive fears or worries
  • Constant low energy 
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Ignoring personal hygiene 

Employees often feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health, especially with their managers. This is owing to the long-withstanding stigma surrounding mental health. As an employer, you must encourage your employees to speak up and provide the necessary support to assist them through these difficult times. 

 

How to support your employees?

Here at Health Assured, we are urging businesses to make a conscious effort to support the health and wellbeing of their employees. To help with this, we have provided some tips to help your organisation create a positive workplace culture; where mental health is not stigmatised – and employees can speak up.

 

Remove the stigma

Approaching the topic of mental health can be an arduous task for any organisation. Employees will often avoid discussing their mental health for fear of being discriminated against. As an employer, you must work to reduce this stigma and create a positive workplace culture that prioritises the health and wellbeing of your employees. 

It is no secret that a stigma exists around mental health. Feelings of shame and embarrassment often prevent people from discussing their inner worries. For many employees, these worries are extremely personal and disclosing them at work could be uncomfortable. This should not be the case. As an employer, you must make a concerted effort to reduce this stigma – encouraging your employees to speak freely about their mental health.

Your organisation must create a positive work environment that encourages employees to feel at ease. There are numerous strategies to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and, as a result, establish a positive and productive workplace. This may include training managers to recognise and address mental health issues or providing mental health support groups and resources. 

 

Increase awareness

As mentioned, 1-in-6 workers suffer from mental health problems. As a result, members of your workforce are likely suffering from some type of mental illness. You must ensure these employees know they are not alone by raising awareness. But how can you raise awareness of mental health in the workplace?

Internal communications: include links to articles that provide tips and techniques for improving mental health in your internal communications (intranet, e-mails or newsletters).

Host a mental health workshop: these workshops function as an educational tool and usually involve an external professional who can raise awareness and educate your employees and managers on mental health issues. 

Raising awareness can help boost employee morale and cultivate an inclusive workplace environment where your employees can feel confident and secure.

 

Open and honest communication

Open and honest communication is vital in the workplace. Showing your employees that they work in a supportive environment will make them feel more appreciated. It will help them feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with peers and managers.

Discussing mental health can be overwhelming. That’s why, as an employer, you should make this communication as easy and stress-free as possible. You should create a dialogue by holding regular, informal get-togethers. These moments of support will help your employees open up and talk about their problems - creating a positive work environment where they can feel happier, healthier and more productive.

 

Provide mental health support

A successful organisation puts its people first. Not only because employers have a duty of care to look after their staff. But also because they know that when they support their employees, success comes with all the more ease. Employees are more engaged, present at work and happier in their roles. Absenteeism declines, stress levels drop, and as a result, productivity quickly improves. It’s a win-win.

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provides support to your employees whenever they need it. Through an EAP, employees can access counselling services, as well as legal, financial and medical information. Whether it’s personal problems or work-related issues, an EAP offers a safe space to talk it all through.

 

Encourage treatment

Encouraging treatment can be a difficult subject to approach. You don’t want to alienate or aggravate those suffering. Many people suffering from mental illness don’t realise they are experiencing issues. As such, broaching the subject and encouraging treatment requires emotional sensitivity. By using non-stigmatizing language, you can reaffirm your support. This will let your employees know, that when the time comes (and they feel ready to do so), you will support them through the therapy process.

 

Health and wellbeing support from Health Assured

Want to find out more? Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers a 24/7 counselling helpline that can support your health and wellbeing.

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