The end of 2018 is fast approaching, and we move into yet another season. Autumn presents itself to us through many visible changes such as the leaves turning colour and the chill in the air. These obvious indications make it easy for us to adapt to the changes by throwing on a coach or cranking the heating up at home, but what happens when there are no visual indicators to prompters? In this issue, we look at mental health at work and how to spot warning signs that don’t always freely present themselves.
With most of us spending the majority of our time at work it becomes A major part of our lives, and with that in mind it is vital we provide a fulfilling environment that promotes good mental health and general well-being for everyone. You may not openly talk about mental health in your workplace as it is unfortunately still a taboo subject, but recent studies show that one and six workers are suffering common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employees have a legal responsibility to help their employees. Work-related mental health issues must be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Where a risk is identified, steps must be taken To remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably practicable.
Work-related stress and mental health problems often go hand in hand and the symptoms can be very similar, making them difficult to identify. Common mental health problems and stress can exist independently – people can experience work-related stress and physical changes without having anxiety or depression and vice versa. Some employees will already be suffering from a mental illness when you recruit them, and others may develop one during their employment.
Open door policy
As an employer, you can help manage and prevent stress by improving conditions at work. But you also have a role in making adjustments and helping someone manage a mental health problem at work. As a manager; you may have noticed someone at work who you believe to be suffering from mental health issues. The best thing you can do is talk to them – early action can prevent them from becoming more unwell. If the person does not want to speak to you, suggest I speak to someone else, for example, an occupational health professional or their own GP. Make sure everyone knows your door is always open!
Stick to what you know
Don’t get caught up trying to be a GP. Your responsibility as an employer is to concentrate on making reasonable adjustments at work, rather than understanding the diagnosis. A GP, medical support or occupational health should be able to provide guidance on what you can do to help them.
One of the most helpful things you can do for an employee that has been signed off work through ill mental health is to keep them informed from the get-go! If they know what is going on; they do not start stressing about that on top of everything else they have to deal with. This sounds obvious – but many people are left for long periods of time without contact with the employers believing it is better to allow them time without being disturbed.
Make it clear
Publicising your businesses commitment to promoting positive mental health across your organisation will help normalise the subject and encourage staff to talk to their manager (and their colleagues) about their mental house.
Develop a plan for this which includes:
- Identifying the objectives for mental health improvement and why.
- Educating staff and managers and removing any stigma associated with mental ill-health.
- Putting support processes in place for staff experiencing mental ill-health.
Creating a mental health policy and reviewing existing policies to ensure managers and staff knew where to go for support and further information if needed.
Occupational health is concerned with the effects of work on health. It also considers an individual‘s health, ability and fitness to perform a particular job.
As previously mentioned employers are not expected to be medical expert, they are however expected to seek a professional opinion regarding employee health issues prior to making significant decisions. There are plenty of private companies offering the services but many employers are unaware that the NHS offer is a comprehensive and cost-effective OH service called Workplace Health for UK. For more information visit www.nhshealthatwork.co.uk.
Use your appraisal system
An appraisal is a great opportunity to have a wider conversation with your employees that can also address mental well-being.
Questions like ‘tell me how you feel about your work‘, or ‘what do you find frustrating about working here‘ can provide a way of exploring an employee state of mind.
The key is to use probing questions and not simply take the first response and move on. Clearly, when dealing with mental health matters you need to be sensitive to the individual and know the limits of your own ability but employers are often reluctant to ask obvious and relevant questions when it comes to discussing how the employee feels.
A good starting point is to ask yourself how would you feel in a similar situation. Is your interest supportive or an in interrogation? These types of conversations can often be uncomfortable but if handled correctly can unlock difficult shit situations which may have been an issue for some time.
If you have an employee situation that you feel would benefit from intervention and you feel uncomfortable speak to Eve or Andy and we can offer advice or even conduct the meeting.
A study carried out in 2018 in an organisation that had health and well-being activities in place during 2017 showed the following positive results:
- 44% improvement in employee morale and engagement
- 35% improvement in a healthier and more inclusive culture
- 31% reduction in sickness absence