According to Mind, the mental health charity, in the UK around one in four adults will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime. It could easily be the person sitting next to you. Like physical health, we all have mental health – it’s just that some people struggle with theirs. Here at advo we recognise the importance of mental health all year round, not just in mental health week.
It is so important for employers to be forward thinking and open up a conversation about mental health. Employees should never feel ashamed or intimidated in discussing any issues they may have; everyone is entitled to understanding and compassion. From a legal perspective, the 2010 Equality Act states an employer should make reasonable adjustments for people with all disabilities, both mental and physical to ensure they have the same access to gaining and retaining employment as a non-disabled person.
From a business perspective, a positive approach to mental health can lead to a reduction in staff absences and turnover, and increase productivity in the long term. Often, it just requires a few small adjustments. Here are some of the steps that you as an employer can take to promote a better attitude to mental health within your business.
Open up the conversation
Businesses need to send a clear message to staff that any discussion regarding mental health will be met with help and understanding, not discrimination. It’s key to eradicate any fear about coming forward. Treat mental health as seriously as you would treat a physical disability.
A recent survey revealed one in five people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were stressed at work; less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem had disclosed this to their manager. Make sure your employees know every discussion regarding their mental health will be treated with utmost respect and kept confidential.
Encourage professional support
If an employee discloses that they are struggling, it is important to recommend they seek professional advice. While businesses can offer practical support within the law, they are not trained doctors. You should always ensure your employees are taking the appropriate steps to ensure their mental health is being dealt with by a professional.
Everyone’s experience of mental health is different; flexibility is key. Ongoing support should be at the heart of addressing mental health issues your employees might have. You other staff, such as the HR team can help you develop an appropriate and compassionate approach towards ensuring an employee’s work life is as stress free as possible.
The NHS has made a number of suggestions as to how employers can make adjustments to allow someone to continue functioning at work to their fullest capacity. Reasonable adjustments include; flexible working hours (a phased return to work, freedom to attend medical appointments or working from home, a positive personal environment (clean workspace, reduced noise or a place to relax and eat), and support with workload; either by reallocating their current tasks or helping them to prioritise what is needed.
Develop an action plan
If an employee discloses a mental health issue, or has taken time off to deal with one, it ‘ is important to put a plan in place for their future needs. Be aware of any potential triggers, such as stress or conflict that could result in further issues. Outline the support you are going to provide and demonstrate you are going to remain patient and positive. If someone is struggling to with their mental health, bear in mind that they may only be able to perform the task to the bets of their abilities under the circumstances.
Every mental health issue affects people differently; for that reason, each employee will have different needs. What works for some, won’t work for others. advo hr can offer training workshops for managers on recognising the signs of a colleague who may be struggling, supporting the colleague and practical tools on managing a mental health or wellbeing issue. Contact us today to enquire.