Employees have a duty of care to ensure that they are doing all they reasonably can to support their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
By creating an environment where employees feel comfortable talking openly about mental health, problems are less likely to build up to unmanageable levels, resulting in less time taken off for poor mental health, and improved satisfaction and happiness at work.
So what can employers do to support the mental health of their staff?
1. Assessing mental health at work
The first step to supporting your employees’ mental health is identifying who might need help and what kind of support they might need. This can be done through regular check ins with managers about how their teams are doing, wellbeing surveys, or checking employee feedback to identify concerns.
2. Promote positive mental health at work
By ensuring that you understand mental health well yourself, provide your employees with sufficient training to recognise mental health difficulties in themselves and others, and creating a strategy for supporting mental health, you can help to create a positive attitude to mental health in the workplace.
Having team members trained in Mental Health at Work can help to improve knowledge and support within your workforce.
3. Foster a supportive environment
It is important that your staff feel they can speak openly about their mental health – you can encourage this by ensuring they have regular meetings with their managers, demonstrate that you treat mental and physical health as equally important, and arranging appropriate workshops and training.
4. Check in with your team
You should make sure you are open and available to your team members, and encourage them to talk to you if you need support. Keep the conversation around wellbeing and mental health open by keeping in regular contact with your staff, asking how they’re feeling, how work is going and if they need any support.
5. Personalise your management style
Different types of management style will suit different types of people. It is important that you take your employees’ personalities into consideration when choosing how to communicate with them about mental health. This is particularly important when communicating with those working from home when in-person meetings are not possible – you should ask them whether they prefer to talk on the phone, via a video call, or over email.
This is not, however, limited to remote workers – mental health is a sensitive subject and some people can find it tricky to talk about face-to-face. Therefore other ways of communicating about any issues an employee is having should be an option.
6. Understand how to bring up a mental health concern
If you are concerned about an employee’s wellbeing, you should arrange to speak to them at a time and place that they feel comfortable with – let them set the pace, to not push them to talk if they are not ready. The conversation should be private and be approached in a positive, supportive manner.
7. How to respond to a mental health concern brought to you
If someone opens up to you about their mental health, you should:
- Thank them for opening up to you
- Allow them as much time as they need to speak
- Listen carefully and think about what the cause may be
- Think if there are any resources available to them through work that might help
- Reassure them that they have been heard and they will be given support
8. Provide access to mental health resources and support
You should be aware of what resources the company can offer, and ensure that these are clearly communicated and available to employees. Examples of such resources could include:
- Details of mental health first aider(s)
- Staff counselling via an employee assistance programme
- Contact details for free third-party services, charities, etc.
9. Make reasonable adjustments if appropriate
If an employee’s mental health difficulties are classed as a disability, by law reasonable adjustments must be made. These might include:
- Adjustments to working pattern
- Allowing employees to work from home, either on set days or flexibly
- Reviewing responsibilities and deadlines to reduce stress
- Moving someone to a different role or department
10. Make sure you have your own support in place
Supporting others with their mental health can take its toll – it is important that you look after your own mental health as well. If you’re feeling under pressure, stressed or low, reach out to your own manager, your workplace’s mental health first aider, or a counsellor if one is available to you.
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