Statistics show that one in four people in the UK will experience mental health problems at some point.
How does that percentage reflect on your workforce? Is it six employees? Ten? One hundred? One thousand?
Research from Mind, strongly supports the notion that the stigmas and taboos that still exist surrounding mental health are not only costing employees their wellbeing, but are costing employers upwards to 12.5 million days of work a year.
As an employee wellbeing specialist, we have a wealth of experience in supporting managers, HR departments and employers in assisting employees with mental health issues and promoting a mentally healthy workforce. However, something that is never talked about enough is the fear and anxiety an employee may suffer with, prior to telling senior staff about their mental health.
The taboos and stigmas surrounding mental health can prove costly to employers, so here are our tips on not only breaking the silence surrounding mental health at work, but also make your working environment a safe space for employees to be open about their mental health:
Start From the Top: Getting senior managers and directors on board with challenging the stigma of mental health in the workplace is a sure-fire way of helping deconstruct the taboos surrounding mental health issues. With the support and endorsement of those at the top – or better still, if senior staff are open about their mental health – you can shift your organisation’s attitude to workplace mental health and wellbeing. Programmes such as peer support networks can encourage your employees at all levels to seek support through less formal channels.
Promote Your EAP: An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a huge employee benefit, so, if your business already offers this level of employee assistance – be sure to promote it. People think nothing of redeeming their discounted gym memberships or childcare vouchers, while often, employee counselling services take a back seat when we think of our top employee benefits.Promoting your EAP services alongside your double coffee points or dental insurance will not only increase awareness amongst employees of the help that is available to them, but will position you as an open, supportive and understanding employer. Normalise the businesses employee assistance services and you will, hopefully, see employees begin to look after their mental health as well as they do their teeth!
Keep Talking: For employees who are beginning to experience mental health issues, talking at an early stage can be really beneficial. That can, however, prove much harder than it sounds, which is why we recommend keeping lines of communication open by having one-to-one catch ups with employees at least quarterly, to check in not only with how they are coping with work, but also how they are feeling generally. This is an easy yet effective way of letting your employees know that they are valued, as well as setting a precedent for an open relationship between employers or managers and their employees and team members.
If ever an employee does not feel comfortable talking to their line manager or employer, be sure to arrange for them to speak to someone else, be that another team member, a member of the HR department, a GP or an EAP counsellor.
For most employees, in reality, their workplace is where they spend most of their time. It doesn’t matter whether an employee’s ill mental health is directly work-related or whether work is a contributing factor to a pre-existing condition – as an employer, you have a legal duty of care to support your workforce.
When you provide a safe, accepting and supportive workplace for your staff, you can enable your employees to:
If you would like more advice on effectively supporting mental health in the workplace, take a look at our EAP services today.