You may have recently seen the Duke of Cambridge launching ‘Mental Health at Work’, a new initiative from Heads Together and Mind, aiming to change the way that we approach workplace stress and mental health in the UK.
It’s sobering to read the latest research from Mind which shows how a culture of fear and silence around mental health can be costly to employers:
- More than 1 in 5 (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
People who experience mental illness are dealing with complex issues every day. Despite this, they are strong and skilful – usually more strong and skilful than you or they may think. However, their symptoms can affect their performance at work and some adjustments may be needed. Managers can be fearful of raising this – worrying that people will be sensitive or that it will expose their own ignorance or even stigma in this area.
How can I help my employees?
The Mind and Soul Foundation suggest the below three simple steps:
- Promote good mental health in your teams
- Nip things in the bud as soon as you become aware
- Get more help if it’s needed
There’s a lot of different resources out there to help you with all of these steps.
What are my legal duties?
You have a legal responsibility to assess your employees’ risk of workplace stress and ensure you respond in the right and fair way to that assessment.
While it might be a legal requirement, there are genuine business benefits to looking after your employees health and wellbeing: savings on costs due to sickness absence, costs of replacing staff, increasing productivity and reduced accident rates.
It’s important to be aware that some mental health problems are a ‘disability’ and so a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
Are there some guidelines I can follow?
We can often be worried about what we can and can’t do or say, fearing breaking the law or making a situation worse.
On their excellent website, the Mind and Soul Foundation suggest following the below key principles:
- Focus on what the person CAN do. These are usually skilled and capable employees or volunteers – with a bit of help they will be a great service to your organisation.
- Make ‘reasonable adjustments’ – this is just what is says – usually small adjustments like being more flexible on work times, allowing time off for medical appointments etc, these adjustments can help that person to remain at work.
- It works both ways – the employer has responsibilities to assess and reduce workplace stress, but so too does the employee – to seek help, and to follow any guidance given.
Need some help to navigate through this?
Would you like to talk through how you can help your employees or volunteers with their mental health? Maybe you’d like to look at creating Wellness Action Plans for your teams or finding the right tools to fit your workplace? Contact us today for a no obligation, confidential chat.
#peoplematter #oktosay #HeadsTogether #WorldMentalHealthDay