Recent evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions, whilst mental ill-health costs employers around £45 billion a year.
This is bad news for both employees and employers. Employees on average will spend 3,515 full days at work over the course of their lifetime, whilst employers will risk reduced production and business failure if mental ill-health at work is not addressed. If a business begins to fail, employees could suffer increased stress, worsening mental health.
So how can we improve mental health in the workplace and break this cycle?
Thankfully there are tips for mental health at work that employers can take to improve and safeguard the wellbeing of their employees, and prevent the business from going awry.
We’ve rounded up 8 of the best.
- Create an open workplace culture
Mental ill-health is still heavily stigmatised, which prevents employees from feeling confident enough to talk to their managers and their colleagues about how they are feeling.
Employees who feel this way are likely to suffer in silence, resulting in reduced performance, increased absences and even possible high staff turnover rates.
To combat this, managers shouldn’t be afraid to openly discuss issues relating to stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Making it clear that everyone struggles at some point, that there are appropriate forms of support available and that employees will get better can go a long way into cultivating a workplace culture where everyone feels comfortable enough to talk openly about how they are feeling.
Managers should also be educated on the early warning signs of mental ill-health so that they are able to respond appropriately. Even an initial conversation between a line manager and employee could encourage someone to get the help they need.
- Encourage a work/life balance
A work/life balance tipped unevenly on the working side of the scales can lead to burnout and declined employee productivity.
Where possible, prevent employees working late or taking work home, and instead insist that employees regularly take vacations where they are able to leave work behind.
Encourage employees to develop a life outside of the office that is full of their favourite activities, like spending time with their families or enjoying hobbies. Employees with a good work/life balance will be more productive and less at risk of developing mental ill-health.
- Clearly signpost Mental Health Days
If employees are physically ill, such as with a headache or stomach upset, they are actively encouraged to take the day off to recover. However Mental Health Days are not viewed in the same light.
If an employee cannot work due to mental ill-health, or suffering symptoms of burnout, they deserve to be given the same treatment as an employee suffering a physical illness.
Part of preventative health involves giving the mind and body a break. Allowing your staff to take advantage of preventative health measures and recharge will negate serious mental ill-health symptoms developing further down the road.
Ensure you are clearly signposting Mental Health Days and allowing your employees to access them. Stipulate regularly that Mental Health Days are available for employees as and when they are needed.
- Watch for early warning signs
Managers and line managers should always be educated in spotting early warning signs of mental ill-health so that they can offer support and assist in a timely manner.
If team leaders do spot an employee acting differently, i.e a new recurring low mood, lack of enthusiasm or irritability, they should not hesitate to check how that employee is feeling.
Even if the response is closed, or dismissive, managers should remind their employees that they are there to help and can provide access to supportive resources.
- Supply access to up-to-date resources
The information you supply to employees must be relevant and up to date. If support resources are now outdated, and therefore irrelevant, the support will be ineffective and could potentially do harm.
Audit the organisations mental health resources to make sure they’re up to date, and are providing safe and professional advice that employees can use as they begin their journey to better mental wellbeing.
Then ensure that you signpost and facilitate access to the resources. Just like if the information is irrelevant, it will be ineffective, the same will occur if your employees do not know how to access the organisation’s mental health resources.
Remove barriers to access by supplying the content in a multitude of formats, such as audio, braille, video and written.
- Train a Mental Health First Aider
Mental Health First Aiders are a vital resource for any business. Just like having a physical first aider on site, mental health first aiders are able to assist a colleague suffering with mental ill-health.
Mental health first aiders can identify early warning signs, and are trained to have the confidence and skills to approach a colleague who could be suffering mental distress. They can listen non-judgmentally, and point the employee to further support or resources.
It’s estimated that on average UK businesses can save up to £8 billion a year just through implementing better mental wellbeing support in the workplace, so mental health first aiders are a fantastic resource for colleagues and organisations alike.
- Create a healthy workplace environment
A negative workplace environment can have detrimental impacts on employees. Negative workplaces are a pressure cooker for mental ill-health, and can lead to quicker burnout and less productivity.
However when employees feel motivated and supported in a healthy business environment, they will perform better. This allows staff to perform to their potential and means the business will achieve its peak performance.
It’s important for your employees to feel energized and uplifted by their work environment. Research has shown productivity, engagement, and overall wellness increase when people feel comfortable in workspaces with natural lighting, plants, and other positive features.
To find out more about how to nurture a healthy workplace environment, read our blog.
- Find and appreciate meaningful positives
The workplace can be a place where negativity is cultivated, such as in stresses brought about from difficult projects, or tightening deadlines.
However there is a way to combat the natural negativities experienced in workplaces. It’s by choosing to appreciate small, but meaningful positives.
These small things all add up, and they can enhance employees’ overall mental well being. Positives could be as simple as recognition for something going right, a great piece of work, or a testimonial from a client. Sharing these regularly can boost employee morale, and motivation, strengthening the culture and community of the workplace.
Whilst the statistics may be bad, we can turn things around just by being more aware of the mental wellbeing of one another, and by actively taking steps to create a happier, more positive environment.
Find out more about the mental health first aid courses we can implement in your workplace, or if you’d like more information, just get in touch with us.