According to research by the Mental Health Foundation, 88% of those diagnosed with a mental health issue have felt stressed, overwhelmed or had trouble coping in the workplace. This statistic alone shows us that more could still be done to help employees who are experiencing poor mental health at work.

However, in recent years, one common question asked by employers, line managers and HR professionals alike is – exactly how can we better support an employee with mental health issues? Well, our guide is here to help.

At Great Minds At Work, we understand the importance of adequately supporting mental health at work, so in this article, we’ve outlined the key ways you can get started. 

The Implications of Unsupported Mental Health Issues At Work

When mental health issues go unsupported in the workplace, employees are less likely to seek treatment. This often leads to an increase in their symptoms and can make them more vulnerable to illness. If left unresolved, workplace mental health issues may lead to employees taking extended time off work and falling behind in their workload.

Further implications of unsupported mental health issues at work include the business cost of absenteeism and presenteeism. If employees do not feel adequately supported in their workplace, they are more likely to take sick days or underperform when they are at work. This has an outstanding impact on business costs, with mental health-related absenteeism costing the UK £14 billion in 2020 alone. 

To assess the cost of poor mental health on your business, our HMRC Tool Guide can offer you an estimate of just how much mental health-related issues are costing your company and an estimated ROI for investing in workplace mental health training.

Related Reading: The True Benefits of Employee Wellbeing in the Workplace

Can Someone Lose their Job Due to Poor Mental Health?

No, they can’t. To safeguard the rights of those with mental health conditions, the Equality Act 2010 states some key legal obligations for any company to reduce the negative impact on employees due to mental ill-health at work. These legal obligations include:

  • Ensuring the workplace does not take adverse action against an employee. Discriminating against, harassing or victimising people with disabilities is unlawful, and mental health problems are included in this.
  • Removing risks that might contribute to employees’ health and safety.
  • Making reasonable changes and enabling employees to perform their duties effectively and fulfill the core requirements of the role.
  • Ensuring any conversations concerning mental health are strictly confidential and information is not disclosed without the employee’s consent.

How To Support an Employee With Mental Health Issues

Talk (And Listen!) To Them

Employers and employees should be encouraged to talk through mental health as a regular topic. But how does this conversation look? How can you talk about mental health at work safely and effectively

Asking open questions, such as “how are you feeling today?” or “what can I do to help you?”,  may encourage employees to begin to speak about any issues they may be experiencing, rather than making it a formal conversation. So ask questions that give them space to talk, and listen non-judgementally if they do decide to open up and begin the conversation.

Reassure Confidentiality

Employees may be hesitant when it comes to reaching out to their employer about mental health issues, so employers should reassure confidentiality when necessary. Be clear from the start that any private conversations will remain confidential and the employee can be open without fear of facing any negative consequences. 

This gives your employees or co-workers a safe place to be honest about their mental health and how it may be affecting their work performance, as well as providing a space for them to request anything from you that could help.

Offer Them Resources

If a mental health problem is impacting an employee, employers should be proactive and offer appropriate resources to help. These could include:

  • Information about relevant services such as therapy signposting, self-help resources, local support groups, and crisis lines.
  • On-site counselling if the situation needs more specialist support (make sure it’s free for employees).
  • Peer support allows employees to discuss with their peers how they can cope with their mental health problems effectively at work.

Train as a Mental Health First Aider

There are simple steps that workers can take to keep themselves and others safe if they’re experiencing mental health issues at work. For instance, employers can appoint someone as a Mental Health First Aider who can identify the signs of poor mental health and act accordingly.

Training as a Mental Health First Aider allows you to share the training with your entire workforce, so they too can play a role in supporting mental health at work. Alternatively, you could train your company managers via a Mental Health First Aid Champions course. By training your managers to be sensitive to mental health-related issues, you are helping them work within the correct framework and enabling them to do their jobs better. 

This can help reduce absenteeism and increase productivity, by creating a supportive environment that helps people feel comfortable reaching out for assistance.

How To Manage an Employee With Mental Health Issues

Set Manageable Goals & Action Plans

Employees and managers should meet regularly to discuss how they can manage their mental health at work. A one-to-one meeting is a chance for employees to listen to the manager’s expectations and set appropriate goals and action plans to help employees meet these expectations while taking care of their mental health. An employee can also use this time to outline any reasonable adjustments they may require in order to continue performing as effectively as possible as part of the team.

Make Reasonable Adjustments

Employers should try to support employees with mental health issues by making reasonable adjustments for them to better manage their work and their mental health. This could include:

  • Allowing flexi-time so they can manage their workload around therapy appointments.
  • Allowing days off for therapy sessions or doctor’s appointments.
  • Giving them a heads up if their workload is going to increase significantly so they can plan ahead and prevent burnout, as extra stress could exacerbate mental health problems.
  • Providing an accessible working environment so employees have enough space and privacy to work effectively.

Watch For Warning Signs 

Though there are many warning signs that someone may be struggling with mental health issues, some common warning signs include:

  • Speaking negatively about themselves or outwardly expressing unhappiness.
  • An increase in unauthorised time off work or sick days.
  • Experiencing an increase in procrastination or stress surrounding any tasks they’re working on.
  • Not wanting to speak to anyone, including their manager.

Read More Warning Signs of Mental-Ill Health

What Actions Can I Take?

If an employee’s mental health is impacting their usual working performance, employers should take action. For example, employers may need to offer support in the form of reduced hours or time off for employees who are unable to complete their tasks effectively.

Working with employees by offering support and acting accordingly will benefit everyone and the employees will be more likely to stay within the company, too. 

How Employers Can Support Mental Health At Work

Company-Wide Mental Health Training

Company-wide mental health training is beneficial to businesses and employees alike because it shows that an organisation is committed to offering support to its employees. Whether you want a team of mental health champions, or a team of fully-accredited mental health first aiders will depend on the specific needs of your company.

With workplace mental health training, organisations can provide employees with the tools to recognise signs of poor mental health at work and offer strategies to manage any conditions. Further to this, with these key skills in place, an employee can reduce their need for time off and boost their workplace performance, all while taking better care of themselves.

Effective team-wide training also helps potential employees see how seriously companies take mental health. As company reputation is an important part of recruitment, potential recruits are more likely to want to work for a company that offers support and is receptive to employee mental health and wellness.

Committing To a Healthier Workplace Culture

Employees should feel comfortable about approaching their managers whenever issues arise, and employers taking the time to listen will put employees at ease. With this in mind, it’s essential that employers explore different approaches to mental health and take a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. Ensure your workplace is free from stigma and instead provides an open-minded culture where everyone has the support they need.

Creating a safe and open environment is one of the best ways to support mental health in the workplace, so it’s important that your company culture is progressive, trusting and compassionate. This will allow your employees to feel safe about seeking help when they need it most.

Employers have a responsibility to keep their workplace healthy, so unlocking the door for conversations around mental health is essential to removing stigma. By having an understanding of how mental health issues affect employees in the office environment, companies can create a happier and more productive workforce.

Looking For Expert Business Mental Health Training?

At Great Minds At Work, we offer fully-accredited MHFA and business mental health training courses. Our trainers are MHFA-certified, experienced coaches.

If you want to offer your employees or colleagues access to our fantastic business mental health training services, contact us today for more information! We’ll be happy to help you with anything else you need along the way.