With our understanding of mental health continuing to improve, it now falls to businesses to ensure that the appropriate steps are being taken to help employees who may be struggling with the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Having systems in place to manage mental health in the workplace has many tangible benefits, from increased productivity and improved morale to fewer days lost due to sickness. Here’s what businesses need to know about looking after the emotional wellbeing of their staff in 2022.
A Brief Introduction To Mental Health
Just because we can’t see mental health, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. How we think and feel about certain situations, until expressed verbally or physically, tends to be known only to us.
The same can be said for those who experience problems with their mental health. Such conditions can manifest in various ways, impacting everything from an ability to complete routine tasks to making individuals unwilling to engage in conversations or activities with family and friends. Typically, those with anxiety may avoid certain situations through fear of failure, embarrassment or the unknown, whereas those going through depression can appear withdrawn, angry or devoid of emotion.
Above all else, it is important that the examples listed here are seen as just that: examples. The symptoms of mental health issues present differently in every individual and there is no real one-size-fits-all definition of anxiety, depression or any other condition that falls into this category. Remember this when entering a conversation about mental health with a friend or colleague, and try to keep an open mind at all times.
Mental Health At Work
According to Mind, 25% of people in England will experience a problem with their mental health every year. This may be linked to their work life, home life or a combination of different factors.
As working environments can be highly stressful, the pressure of a day-to-day role may well have a negative impact on somebody who already has fragile mental and emotional wellbeing. Toxic workplaces, which focus on pushing staff to their limits and picking apart every aspect of their performance, are a particular problem area here. Such an attitude towards employees will often cause the symptoms of mental health to worsen, resulting in lost motivation, issues with timekeeping and overly emotional responses to instructions.
Depending on both the workplace and the employee, it can also be hard to detect when someone is struggling mentally. For some people, the responsibilities of their job provide a welcome escape from the challenges they face at home. It really is down to the individual.
Improving Mental Health In The Workplace
After gaining such an understanding, it is the responsibility of businesses to do what they can do to look after the mental health and wellbeing of all of their staff. Doing so can increase job satisfaction and employee happiness, which will both contribute to a positive, productive working environment. Here are some top tips.
- Establish a culture of openness. Even though businesses are required by law to protect the mental health of their employees, one of the biggest reasons that people don’t open up is fear of discrimination and unacceptance. Workplace culture plays a big part here. By making it the norm for people to express themselves and reach out to their superiors when there is a problem, the stigma of mental health is removed. The creation of such an environment means that people don’t have to bottle up their feelings and will feel safe to raise issues, which can improve their mood and performance.
- Encourage breaks and rest periods. Many employees feel bound by agreed lunch times and other company-sanctioned periods of rest. Normalise the idea of stepping out of the office or away from the desk at regular intervals throughout the day. This will provide individuals with the opportunity to take a break from their work and return to it with fresh eyes, reducing feelings of being overwhelmed as well as enhancing productivity.
- Hold regular supervision and one-to-one meetings. The idea of an open-door policy can be off-putting, so schedule regular one-to-one meetings with your employees. Frequent check-ins will allow you to gain a clearer picture of how an individual is coping with their day-to-day responsibilities and their mental health. You should document these meetings and do what you can, within reason, to remove avoidable stresses and barriers to performance. It is here that you may be able to point staff in the direction of your employee assistance programme, if you have one.
- Educate your staff. Increase staff understanding of mental health by holding regular training sessions. A newfound awareness of mental health conditions will allow them to pick up on any indications that one of their colleagues is struggling. Some common signs include quick changes in mood, an unkempt appearance, a dip in performance and an increase in sick days. Make sure they get the balance right, though. Constant surveillance, or at least the idea of it, may be considered to be discrimination by those affected.
- Make reasonable adjustments. There will be times where an employee’s mental health is impacting on their ability to keep to normal working hours and practices. By making reasonable adjustments, such as altering their working pattern or enabling them to work from home, you can tailor the workday around them without making them feel like a burden. This will ensure they feel valued and as though the company has their needs at heart.
We hope you enjoyed reading our top tips on how to improve and maintain employee mental health in the workplace. Head to our news section for more updates and deep dives into a wide range of topics. You can learn more about our extensive business support services here.