Currently, around 1 in 6 workers are facing mental health issues like anxiety, depression or stress. If the working environment is unsupportive of these issues, it can be corrosive to employee mental health. Luckily, there are ways you, as a manager or team leader, can learn to support mental health at work.
Various aspects of workplace practices can negatively impact mental health. Some of which you might not have considered as being a cause for concern. But taking steps to research the connection between mental health and work, and receiving training, will help you identify them.
The workplace should be an environment that allows everyone to thrive. Employees need to feel safe and supported in their jobs, or employers risk losing valuable and skilled team members.
Creating a culture of openness and support can help individuals to manage their challenges, which reduces sick days, cuts staff turnover, lowers costs and increases output.
It also has the added benefit of making the company far more attractive for future employees and helps to meet their legal responsibilities. Read on for some of the ways you can support mental health at work.
Look out for early warning signs
Mental health issues and disorders have many symptoms and warning signs but unless you know what you’re looking for it’s not always easy to spot.
In some cases, an individual on the verge of a mental health crisis can appear unmotivated, disruptive or even malcontent. Early crisis intervention can make a huge difference both in terms of making sure the individual gets the support they need and prevents long term absences or disciplinary action. Being aware and watchful of possible signs is a small task that can have a big impact on wellbeing.
Some of the early warnings signs you can look out for in others are:
- Co-workers or employees appear more tired than usual
- Uncharacteristic mistakes
- Sudden lack of motivation or a slip in timekeeping
- Becoming short-tempered or emotional
- Colleagues trying to isolate themselves and avoid others
- Continually appearing distracted
- Increased procrastination or not performing duties altogether
- A more chaotic approach to work
- Taking on more work than they can manage
- Absences from work
- Sudden outbursts
- Not taking care of their personal hygiene or appearance
It’s often hard to notice these changes as they can be gradual over a number of weeks or months. Regular supervision sessions can help to identify possible issues.
However, team leaders trained to look out for signs of poor mental health – not how to provide support – can make all the difference. They can help the individual get support or prevent a full blown mental health crisis.
Promote mental health and wellbeing as organisational assets
Develop processes and an approach to mental health in the workplace that protects and improves mental wellbeing for everyone. You could designate mental health champions who are trained in providing support. And make sure company leaders understand the value of good mental health and properly implement mental health programmes.
Review the way you do business with mental health in mind. That way, you’re more likely to spot areas that present risk to workers. Identify all areas for concern and consider solutions to these potential problems. Look over the existing employee benefits and determine whether these are sufficient for good mental wellbeing. Also, make sure evidence-based mental health promotion tools such as mindfulness and exercise are available to the workforce.
Another good way to highlight potential issues is through regular staff surveys and research. The more you strive to learn about their mental health, the clearer picture you’ll receive. Use these findings to plan ways to combat the factors posing risks and to inform workplace policies.
Develop compassionate and effective management relationships
While it’s important for team members to be trained in supporting mental health, this must be valued in management staff. Leaders who acknowledge and openly discuss mental health make it easier for others to do so. Helping to create an environment where it’s seen as an important concern and not something people should be afraid of.
In that instance, you should provide opportunities for managers to receive relevant mental health training. That way, they’ll be equipped to properly support staff living with mental health issues and the wellbeing of staff altogether. It’s important that management teams also have the correct support to do this well. By having appropriate access to HR and, when required, occupational health services.
Encouraging senior level staff to take an active approach to mental health is also highly beneficial. Make it normal procedure to check in with colleagues informally at work to see how they’re doing. Offer them chances to discuss their mental health within review sessions. And even suggest becoming their mentor or coach. That way you are providing ample opportunities to chat and find out if there’s anything you can do to support them. By having that allied, trusting relationship, you could help them spot signs that they’ve missed which indicate they’re becoming unwell.
Management who themselves have personal experience of mental health issues are also assets to a company. They can talk about mental health from a place of understanding and better relax the conversation surrounding it at work.
One of the most important things you can do to support mental health at work is to address discrimination. Make it clear that treating someone differently due to past issues should be as unacceptable as any other form of discrimination or segregation. And that any judgement or harassment is completely unacceptable.
Encourage employees to report any personal incidence and whistle blow any discrimination they witness. Actively link your business with employability providers that enable people with mental health problems to join your team. You could also support anti-stigma initiatives such as Time to Change and Mental Health Awareness Week.
Make sure mental health is considered throughout every process and aspect of your business. Just as you would with regular health and safety initiatives. Keeping it top of mind helps people feel comfortable to discuss, engage with and disclose mental health challenges.
If you need more assistance with supporting mental health at work, we can help. learndirect deliver a range of courses that are dedicated to protecting and supporting mental health in the workplace.
They are available for all to study and can be completed online at a time that suits. Which is perfect if you’d like your employees to work through them within set hours of the day.
You can train in emergency response for mental health in the workplace and mental health in the workplace for managers. These and other courses will provide you with the skills to maintain positive mental wellbeing and retain your valued workforce.
Find out how you can study online to support mental health at work by viewing our mental health faculty below.