Mental health in the workplace has always been an important topic but it is more prevalent now due to the impact of Covid. Around 1 in 4 people in Scotland are affected with mental health problems every year. Poor mental health can cost UK businesses up to £45 billion each year and mental health issues can have a significant impact on employee wellbeing. It is very important and good practice to be proactive and manage mental health problems as they arise rather than letting issues build up over time.
So what does being proactive and managing mental health in the workplace look like?
Employers should consider the following:
· Implementing a wellbeing and mental health policy which sets out their approach to supporting the wellbeing and mental health of their employees. Doing this will allow employees to know what support there is and how to reach out.
· Training managers to spot the signs of poor mental health and enabling them to have difficult conversations with their staff members. This promotes an environment where employees can be assured that their voices will be heard and the necessary support is there.
· Conducting welfare chats with employees to check in and make sure they are ok. This will help employees feel that they can speak in confidence about any issues they may be facing and it also provides frequent opportunities for conversations to happen rather than employees having to ask for this.
· Having trained Mental Health First Aiders who are able to spot the signs and provide initial support to an employee experiencing mental health problems until professional help is received or until the crisis is resolved.
· Monitoring their culture and environment and ensuring they are positive for staff wellbeing. Providing a healthy working environment is extremely important and correcting any issues you may notice.
Implementing a wellbeing and mental health policy
A wellbeing and mental health policy should set out an employer’s approach to supporting the wellbeing and mental health of their employees. It can be split into different sections such as employer responsibilities, employee responsibilities, mental heath first aiders and employee assistance programs (EAP).
Employer responsibilities – This section should cover things like it is the employer’s responsibility to provide support and services, to be aware of employee wellbeing, to provide the right environment and keeping information confidential. Employees should be assured that any discussions are welcome and confidential. Each employee should be made aware of who they can contact if they would like to have a conversation or discussion about their working environment or any issues they are facing.
Employees responsibilities – This section should cover what you expect employees to do to deal with their mental health problems such as asking for help whether that is from a line manager, mental health first aider, the EAP line or their own medical professional. Employees should be encouraged to make employers aware of mental health problems so employers can assess what support they need and how they can provide that to the employee.
Mental health first aiders – This section can include details of what the mental health first aider can do to help employees and advise which employees are mental health first aiders, if applicable.
Employee Assistant Program (EAP) – This section can include details of how to access the EAP and what services they offer if you provide this as an employer.
Line managers are in the best position to spot signs of poor mental health in their staff members. They have a relationship with them and will know them better than the HR team, senior managers or mental health first aiders. Unlike seniors, or other teams, their line managers will see them more frequently and be more aware of their behavior day-to-day and be able to notice if they start to behave differently.
Training managers to spot the signs of mental health means the employee can get help faster and it also means employees do not have to be the one to initiate a conversation if their managers check-in with them. There are many different types of mental health problems and they have similar symptoms. Managers cannot diagnose a mental health condition but they can provide support until the employee is able to seek professional help.
Training can also provide the managers with the skills and confidence to hold a difficult conversation with the employee around their mental health problem. It will also mean managers can provide a safe space for employees in which employees know that they are speaking with someone who has the training and understanding that is needed to speak openly.
Conducting welfare chats with your employees gives the employer the chance to check in and see how they are, is everything ok at work, is everything ok in their personal life and allows the manager to spot any signs of mental health problems.
This promotes a good working environment where employees feel that they are cared for and valued by their employer. These conversations can allow employers to better understand their employees and be made aware of any changes that may be helpful in the working environment for not only them but also for everyone.
Written by Kirsty Love, HR Adviser, STEP
If you would like help with implementing a wellbeing and mental health policy, training for managers or conducting welfare chats, please get in touch with STEP HR at email@example.com.
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