9-13th May 2022. It is Mental Health Awareness week; a great opportunity for people to share their experiences and initiatives around mental health. It is important to note that it takes more than a few social media posts to create a workplace culture that supports those struggling with their mental health and promotes positive wellbeing practices.
Employers are Responsibility for Staff Wellbeing.
Did you know by law, employers have a duty of care to support staff wellbeing? Mental health problems are becoming more prevalent. Undoubtably, the pandemic has had a lot of impact where many people found themselves isolated from friends, family, and colleagues. With restrictions lifted, employers are starting to adjust; establishing a new work culture. For some, this will mean a combination of home and office working, for others flexible or condensed hours, fewer emails and more talking. It is also a good time to reflect on the mental health support and wellbeing practices that are in place.
“Mental health problems are all too common in the workplace and it is the leading cause of sickness absence. A staggering 70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.” https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/mental-health-workplace
“A culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers:
- More than one in five (21%) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
- 14% agreed that they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
- 30% of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’.
- 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.
Feel free to use some resources below that can help you to take care of your staff and look after their mental health at work.” https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/
Mental health issues can develop suddenly or gradually. Having regular check ins with staff about their mental health and wellbeing is crucial to ensure support can be offered at the earliest stage. This is particularly important for managers but any colleague can informally check in too and this encourages a more supportive culture.
If someone does disclose to you that they are experiencing mental health issues here are some suggestions that you can do to help:
Listen – Try to avoid talking too much or rushing to fill silences as these can be helpful to allow the person disclosing to reflect and think.
Avoid making assumptions or judgements – Our unconscious bias might lead us to fill in the gaps in our knowledge but if you get it wrong it can cause a person to shut down and feel they are not being listened to or understood.
Consider your body language and facial expressions – Try to stay open and calm. Avoid folding your arms and big facial reactions as this might read to the person disclosing as uninterested or judgemental.
Work out what would help – Ask them what they need to support them. Create an action plan with the person who has shared their problems. Consider what adjustments could support them e.g. flexible working, time off, check ins, support with prioritising tasks if they feeling overwhelmed.
Signpost – Share information on support from within the organisation as well as external providers. Here are a few listed:
Employers can help improve knowledge and understanding of mental health in the workplace by encouraging staff to get involved with training and online resources.
Mental Health First Aid
Mind: How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/4661/resource4.pdf
Time to Change has some great activities that you can run in your workplace to improve knowledge and understanding of Mental Health. Take action in your workplace: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/take-action/resources-your-workplace
Initiate positive wellbeing practices. Some employers provide wellbeing services for staff such as having a reflexology or massage therapist to offer onsite treatment. Some set up a positive wellbeing practice like lunchtime walks or after work yoga. Business are involved with volunteering schemes which support local charities and can boost morale, encouraging team bonding whilst helping others.
New Economics Foundation 5 Ways to Wellbeing: https://neweconomics.org/2011/07/five-ways-well-new-applications-new-ways-thinking