Understanding Mental Health
As an employer it is your legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for your team. Ensuring physical health and safety standards are met is relatively standard but it’s not as easy to provide conditions that protect your staff’s mental health. This is understandable – until recently mental health in the workplace was misunderstood and consequently pushed to the side. The purpose of this article is to give you a brief rundown on what we actually mean by mental health in the workplace, the signs you and your managers should be looking out for and the things you can do to make your teams working environment both physically and mentally safe!
Spotting Mental Health Issues
Mental health problem is an umbrella term that can be used to describe; depression, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, etc. Mental health can be tricky as unlike physical health problems e.g. a broken arm, it’s not always easy to spot. With 14.3 million working days lost per year in the UK as a result of stress, depression and anxiety it’s also an important financial stressor for businesses to consider. A big issue with mental health in the workplace is the current ‘out of sight, out of mind’ culture that exists – less than half of people diagnosed with mental health issues had told their manager. As it is so often shunned as a topic of conversation so it is important for your teams and management to have an idea of some of the early signs to watch out for.
Some signs to look out for:
Mood and/or behaviour fluctuations.
Appearing anxious or distant.
Changes in their work/motivation and focus.
Spotting early signs is only the first step in providing a safe working environment for your team. It is important to introduce a mental health policy – this would help to create a culture in your business that supports staff and encourages them to be more open about their struggles with mental health. It’s also useful to designate a member of the team as your ‘mental health first aider’. This allows your team to know exactly who to seek out should they be struggling, whilst reducing the fear of talking to management about, what can be, a very personal issue.
Mental health in the workplace is a wide-ranging topic, but one of the biggest issues is work related stress. Target this directly by organising a risk assessment to identify the risks of stress in the job, make sure you are monitoring both your employee’s workload and make sure they are taking their full holiday entitlement. These small but essential checks and changes can do a lot to impact the wellbeing of your team and consequently the success you experience as a business now and in the future.
A final point to consider is the measures you should take to support your team should one of them suffer from a mental health problem. It’s important for their sake and yours that you identify the cause of their issue and if it’s as a result of the workplace it is important you evaluate and make adjustments where necessary. If possible, you should try to arrange counselling or your ‘mental health first aider’ should refer them to an Occupational Health/GP.
Start the Conversation
Mental health can be difficult to talk about – both as an employer and as a team member who is struggling but this doesn’t have to be the case! By considering the points raised in this article you should be able to create a healthy and stable environment in which your employees feel comfortable discussing and dealing with mental health in the workplace. As a final note it is important to remember that in order to bring such a culture change to fruition – change has to come from the top!