Correct me if I am wrong, but we all like to think that we are approachable to others, don’t we? That, if needed, our colleagues or employees will come to us and open up about their concerns or struggles, their aches and pains…how about their wellbeing and mental health?
Is this a fact?
Is this the reality?
We would all like to think so.
Yet, according to Paychex’s recent study, only 21% would consider approaching their supervisor about their mental health and 35% would approach a colleague. This leaves a huge majority that would definitely not reach out. If you also consider that for many, more time is spent working than waking hours with our loved ones. I believe it is essential that more of us are able to talk about our mental health with our colleagues and our managers too, without fear!
Let’s go with the facts from this research and assume that your workforce and colleagues are amongst the percentage that would not. Then this begs the question: How would you know how many employees at your workplace are stressed or facing mental health challenges to the point that it is affecting their everyday lives?
Well, you wouldn’t.
You see, it’s not always obvious when someone is living with poor mental health or a diagnosed mental illness. It is often hidden. So, when we ask each other, “How are you?” We all seem to answer, without thought, “I’m fine.”
Knowing the real story about a person's mental health is difficult.
Let me explain:
Poor mental health is hidden because of the fear of judgement.
Poor mental health is hidden because of the fear of losing a job or chance of promotion.
Poor mental health is hidden because of the fact that so many of us are now working from home. It is not too hard to appear okay on a Zoom call and then crumble immediately afterwards.
By taking steps to improve the culture of values surrounding mental health and wellbeing support in your workplace and putting measures in place, changes can be made. A healthy work environment can be worked towards and, in time, achieved. However, as with many things in life, consistency is key.
How you can help to create a healthy work environment
It is vital that businesses create an environment that supports mental health, but what does that look like? What achievable steps can you take? What measures can be implemented?
The amount of steps is not exhaustive, however, let me show you some key points.
1. Be aware of positive and negative factors that influence mental health at work
Address these factors and note how the negatives can be changed and the positives built on. Then you can consider what resources your business needs in place for your staff. It could start as simply as leaflets and posters addressing these factors and signposting to further support.
The need could be financial information.
Or perhaps physical wellness support, as without this in place mental health could be affected.
The need for proactive advice surrounding stress management could be the key. In order to gather this information, a questionnaire could be sent to all staff.
Is there an HR contact for people to use?
It is essential that employees are provided with good working conditions. As there is a strong link between staff wellbeing and performance, taking a proactive approach benefits both your staff and your business.
2. Ensure work policies surrounding mental health are visible
Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan and display this strategy. Make all employees aware of what this includes. It must be clear that both physical health and mental health are treated with equal respect and understanding, and that this is visible and accessible to everyone.
Effective and empathic management is crucial when dealing with mental health and employee wellbeing, so steps should be put in place to actively monitor your mental health at work plan.
If staff are reassured through your policy that, for example, taking a day off due to mental health is as valid a reason as physical health, you can start to break down the fear of disclosing the true reason for their absence.
If staff are less likely to feel shamed into silence then help and intervention can be put in place and help sought earlier.
3. Maintain up-to-date resources on your mental health support plan
By keeping your resources up-to-date, you guarantee that the advice given to your employees is current and valid. Regularly raise Mental Health at meetings and remind staff of the policies that are there to support them.
Employers have a duty to not discriminate and it is worthwhile noting that if a mental health issue adversely affects an employee’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks, this is considered a disability which is protected by the Equality Act 2010.
4. Encourage open conversations about mental health
In order to show clearly that mental health is not viewed with stigma in your company, firstly, ensure that the type of vocabulary used and accepted reflects this, both written and spoken. Secondly, reassure your policy of confidentiality and, if needed, anonymity. After all, an open conversation doesn’t mean discussing any specific person’s situation!
Involve all levels of staff as when it comes to health overall, everyone must be included and educated. This is essential for equality and morale too.
If you routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing, you are in a position to gauge change. Early interventions in any situation can help prevent matters from getting worse. You are then more likely to retain great staff thus preventing the financial costs and time of recruitment and training new staff.
5. Invest in Mental Health Training
As with many things in life, education is progression. Add to the measures you are putting in place by way of a mental health work plan and begin your Mental Health First Aid training programme. This training will put in place a network of your staff in your workplace who have a better understanding of how to support others with their mental health. They will know how best to support people and signpost them to help prevent their situation from getting worse.
By reading my previous post, ‘Why your business need Mental Health First Aiders?, you will understand more about the importance of this type of training for your business.
As your licensed Mental Health First Aid Instructor, I will deliver quality training to your staff that will complement your strategies as you build your mental health at work plan.
As part of their mental health strategy plan, some companies, whose staff I train, are working towards a minimum target of 10% of their workforce to be trained in Mental Health First Aid.
What will your company’s minimum target percent be?
Become an employer of choice for future generations through your investment in the health of your workforce.