Mental health problems are something that none of us are immune to. It is estimated that 1 in 4 of us will experience problems with our mental health at some point in our lifetime.
It is no surprise, given we spend so much time there, that our work can have a big impact on our mental wellbeing. According to the mental health charity Mind, more than 1 in 5 people agreed they have called in sick to avoid work when suffering from their mental health due to workplace stress.
The covid-19 pandemic has naturally put a spotlight on mental health in the workplace as lockdowns have brought new pressure and challenges to employers and employees alike, that have the potential to negatively impact their mental health. Over half of organizations in the UK have seen an increase in demand for mental health support since the pandemic began, with the number of adults experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms rose by 9% at the beginning of the first lockdown. Out of those people, 34% have said their mental health was affecting their work.
So, what can employers do to help? This mental health awareness week Kiwi Recruitment have taken a look at what employers can do to support employee’s mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Employers are increasingly investing in training schemes to develop both their own and their employees understanding of mental health and how to manage it effectively. These programmes can either be through online E-learning or in-person training.
Mental Health training schemes will show employees how to recognise the symptoms of deteriorating mental health and the possible contributions (e.g., increased workload due to short staffing, working through breaks, not feeling valued as an employee etc). They will also advise employees on steps they can take to manage these factors.
These training programmes are beneficial in helping employees become aware of how to spot changes in their mental health and how to deal with it effectively. Not only this but they help managers and employees know how to spot signs that someone might be suffering and how to help them.
If you and your company are dedicated to promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace, then you need to have it backed up in the company’s policies and procedures. You can have a section in your health and safety rules that covers mental health. This should lay out the process for helping an employee that is struggling with mental health and should be made readily available to all employees.
It is possible that your policies may not be up to date due to the pandemic creating new anxieties over a variety of things, such as hygiene and travel. It could also be the case that you want to revise the policies due to the lockdowns causing mental health to become a higher priority in the workplace.
It could be beneficial to ask your employees themselves what they feel like they need to feel safe and supported when implementing these into your policies where possible. This will help your employees feel reassured and aware that you are dedicated to supporting their mental wellbeing at work.
There are many different employee benefits available that can help employers support their employees with mental health. There are mental health apps and trackers which can help monitor an employee’s mental wellbeing and give them a ‘nudge’ to access additional support if and when required.
There are also a variety of different support systems that can be offered when an employee is suffering due to their mental health. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, there are specialist helplines, online video counselling sessions and early intervention services through to inpatient and outpatient care through private medical provisions.
The most popular option is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). EAPs offer a variety of services such as free and confidential assessments, short-term counselling, referrals and follow-up services to employees who have personal or work-related problems. They cover a wide range of issues that can affect mental wellbeing (e.g., alcohol/substance abuse, grief, stress, abuse, family problems and other psychological conditions). EAPs can be a standalone programme or part of a wider product such as life assurance or private medical insurance.
Figures from one of Towergate Health & Protection’s leading EAP providers reveal that during 2020 there was a 36% increase in calls to their counselling helpline for support with anxiety. Having a support system in place to protect and support employee’s mental health is vital now more than ever.
A lot of stress can be created for an employee when they need to manage their life around a strict work schedule. Allowing employees some flexibility in how, when and where they work where possible could be beneficial for their mental wellbeing and may even improve their performance.
Flexible working and working from home benefits have become regular fixtures since the pandemic began and have been vital in trying to protect employees in most cases. Continuing to allow employees to work from home and offer them flexible working options where feasible can decrease stress and gives a better work/life balance, which will create happier, more productive employees.
Check-in and communicate
Communication is vital when it comes to supporting employee’s mental wellbeing. Employees need to be able to communicate their concerns and struggles to their employer to make them aware and get help finding solutions or how to better manage the problem. Employers should make sure there is an established line of communication and encourage employees to share their concerns with them to ensure this happens.
Don’t just wait until there’s a problem to check in with your employees, either. If employers check in with their staff frequently, ask them how they are and how things are going, they are going to be more reassured that they can bring their thoughts and concerns to their employer. They might even come forward with their problems earlier, meaning it can be resolved before it becomes a bigger issue.
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