1 in 3 people will take some time out of work because of their mental health. It’s very common and completely human, yet it’s a silent problem in many workplaces across the UK.
Many don’t share their mental health diagnoses or concerns with their employers because they fear it will make the problem worse, or they won’t receive sympathy or understanding. 15% of staff who’ve spoken candidly about their mental health have “faced disciplinary procedures, demotion or dismissal”.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, “12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions”. Better support in the workplace could save £8 billion a year.
Identify the Cause – Can You Do Anything About it?
60% experience a mental health problem because of their work, which can go on to affect other areas of their life, according to research conducted by Mercer and YouGov.
If a staff member is suffering from high levels of depression and anxiety because their workload is unreasonable, or they’re experiencing bullying in your workplace, this is where you as their employer should step in and tackle it. This will send a message to the rest of your team that mental health issues in the workplace are something they can speak about and be supported in, because you’re willing to make changes.
Be Observant and Notice Changes in Staff Behaviour
It’s difficult for a staff member to start a conversation about their mental health, so many will suffer in silence. If you notice a change in behaviour, more frequent absences, and changes in productivity, it’s better for you to initiate a positive and supportive conversation, rather than wait for them to come to you.
Mental health charity Mind suggest employers keep an eye out for “changes in people’s mood and how they interact with colleagues”, difficulty making decisions, and even changes in eating habits. Make sure it’s private, don’t make any assumptions, and encourage them to use the time to talk if they feel comfortable doing so.
Be Flexible and Have an Action Plan
Once you’ve had the conversation, Mind suggest employers and employees work together to “develop an individual action plan which identifies the signs of their mental health problems”. This can include understanding what triggers symptoms, a change in their hours, the contact details for someone who can support them, and whether training or a change in remit could help.
A full list of supportive workplace adjustments can be found in Mind’s guide to helping staff with mental health issues.
Introduce Mental Health Support Initiatives
Mental health problems should be taken as seriously as visible physical conditions, but treating them is rarely as simple. For some, their condition can improve but will never go away entirely. Others can suddenly experience mental health issues for the very first time and not automatically know what’s brought it on.
Initiatives support staff currently experiencing mental health problems, and anyone who might in the future, by establishing a supportive environment. Mental health initiatives can include making self-help information accessible, encouraging staff to support each other, and giving people the opportunity to engage in training and coaching.