According to research, 45% of the total lost days in 2016 through work absences were down to work-related, stress, anxiety and depression.
It’s only recently that mental health has started to become recognised as a real issue in and outside of work.
In fact, one study by Health and Safety Executive found that over 450,000 people suffered from some form of mental health issue due to work-related stress between 2015 and 2016.
So what’s the solution?
Well, as an employer, there isn’t a magical ‘solution’ per se, but there are ways you can support your staff and help make their lives that little bit easier both physically and mentally.
To give you a better idea of the signs of mental health, ways to manage it and causes, we’ve put together a guide which you might find handy to use as a reference point going forward.
Understanding what mental health is
You’ve probably heard of the term mental health in the media, but do you know the significance of it?
In layman’s terms, mental health issues can impact the emotional, psychological and social well-being of a person.
In a lot of cases, this can make handling stressful situations rather challenging, getting along with other colleagues hard and impact their judgement on a day-to-day basis.
While you can treat a common cold, mental illness comes and goes as it pleases, so it’s vitally important that you provide every employee with a positive work environment.
If you do this, you may be able to reduce the extent of these mental health outbreaks or even prevent them from happening as frequently.
If you don’t do this, it can not only make it harder for the sufferer, but the whole business as well. For instance, someone who starts to have a lot of sick days or distracts others can seriously dent productivity rates.
Furthermore, research by ACAS also revealed that
- 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
- 57% of sufferers find it trickier to handle multiple tasks
- 80% of sufferers find it difficult to concentrate
- 62% of sufferers take longer to complete a task
- 50% of sufferers are often less patient with customers or clients
The same study concluded that stress is mainly accountable for long-term absences in manual and non-manual workers.
So how can you help?
Tips to successfully support an employee’s mental health
First and foremost, you should let all of your employees know that the door is always open for a conversation. They shouldn’t feel an ounce of anxiety or stress about calling an informal meeting about their concerns.
By opening up the channel of communication and letting them feel like you won’t act differently towards them, they might start to feel more comfortable sharing with you.
As a result, this can reduce the early signs of stress-related mental illness scenarios from unexpectedly creeping up.
However, despite this policy, some employees won’t always feel completely comfortable talking about their feelings to their employer.
In which case, running monthly or quarterly anonymous surveys can give them the opportunity to be open and honest without the fear of anyone knowing directly who feels a certain way.
As a starting point, try using some of these questions in your survey:
- How are you finding things at the moment?
- Is there anything I can do to help make your job easier?
- If you’re concerned about anything, what is it and how would you like me to resolve it?
- What support do you think might help?
- Would you say that work is causing you stress?
Any employee that does open up about their mental illness should be treated with a high level of care.
Instead of denying them time off, try your best to stay open-minded about it.
If they need a day to attend medical appointments or they want to reduce their hours, let them.
You can always employ someone else or ask a current employee to cover any work they can’t complete.
Other tips to help could involve:
- Further training to help them do their job more effectively
- Paying for social support
- Giving them the option to transfer to a different location (if applicable)
If an employee with mental health issues does take a lot of days off, you should try to stay in touch with them to see how they’re doing and make them feel like they’re still welcome to return.
If you go silent on them, there’s a high possibility that they may feel isolated.
Phased or therapeutic return to work programmes is also an effective way of easing an employee back into work after time off.
For example, let them work just two days a week in the office and have one day of social support every week, then slowly build it up day-by-day.
On the whole, it’s important to remember that every case is different. These top tips are just a starting point and blueprint to test within your business.
Overall, the main element to remember is to be considerate and be flexible to their needs.
Mental illness should be treated seriously and professionally.
If you offer a positive work environment and have a firm understanding of the issue itself, you’ll probably find that the sufferer will stay loyal to your business and help you achieve better results in the future.
For more management tips and ways to handle work-related issues, check out our previous blog: ‘3 Leadership Styles That You Should Avoid’.
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