The workplace can be an important place to talk about mental health. It’s easy to shy away from the thought of discussing mental health with your boss, colleagues, or employees. But hear us out.
The workplace is where lots of us spend a huge amount of our time, and if we’re struggling with our mental health, it can have a big impact on our work. Employees might start to feel like they’re not performing as well as they could; they might start to feel isolated; or relationships with colleagues might suffer.
So, how can talking about our mental health at work help?
Throughout the rest of this guide, we’ll explore some of the benefits of talking about mental health in the workplace for both employers and employees. Let’s get started.
Why Is It Important To Talk About Mental Health?
Talking about our mental health can be difficult but, if it feels right, it can help to connect you with others who may have experienced similar issues.
Mental health issues can affect anybody but, unfortunately, unlike physical health which is openly discussed, mental health can often be stigmatised, which can make it difficult to talk about.
However, it’s important to remember that struggling with your mental health or living with a mental health issue is nothing to be ashamed of. 1 in 4 people may experience a mental health issue of some kind each year in England, and many people struggle with mental illness on a daily basis. By talking about mental health, we can help break down the stigma and make it easier for people to seek help and peer support.
Why Is It Important To Talk About Mental Health at Work?
Reason 1: To Support Suicide Prevention
Discussing mental health openly in the workplace can help to create an environment in which employees can feel comfortable reaching out for support. If an employee is struggling with mental health issues, for example, they may be more likely to seek help if they know that their workplace is open and supportive.
Reason 2: To Support Employees Living With Mental Health Issues
Talking about mental health at work helps employers support employees with mental health issues. Employees that are affected by mental health issues or mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or even substance abuse issues, may find it difficult to cope with their condition and still perform their duties at work.
By talking about mental health openly in the workplace, employers and co-workers can help to create an environment that is understanding and supportive. This can make it easier for employees to manage any mental health disorders and continue working without feeling like they have to hide their illness.
Reason 3: To Reduce the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
Joining the mental health conversation can help to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues. This is important because the stigma surrounding mental health can prevent people from seeking help, which could eventually lead to more problems escalating.
By talking about mental health openly and without judgement, employers and co-workers can help create a more positive attitude towards mental health. This could encourage employees, who are struggling to find the help they need, to speak up.
Reason 4: To Help Others Do the Same
If you talk openly about mental health, you could help encourage others to do the same. This is especially true if you are in a leadership position.
If you open up a conversation about mental health, your employees may feel more comfortable doing the same. This can create a domino effect that could lead to more people discussing and seeking help for any mental health issues they may have. As part of your organisation’s leadership team, you could help to make a real difference in the way mental health is viewed and talked about.
Reason 5: To Foster a Sense of Community
When mental health is openly discussed in the workplace, it can help to improve the overall culture, and foster a true sense of community in your organisation. This is because employees may feel more comfortable being themselves, which can lead to better relationships and communication.
Additionally, talking about mental health can help to create a more understanding and supportive environment, which can promote good mental health and benefit everyone in the workplace. When employees feel like they are part of a supportive community, they are more likely to be productive and engaged in their work. This can lead to better overall job satisfaction and even a decrease in turnover rates.
Reason 6: To Help Employees Seek Treatment When Necessary
If you talk about mental health openly in the workplace, it can help to encourage employees to seek help or treatment if necessary. This is because employees may feel more comfortable discussing their mental health with their employer or a trusted co-worker.
If you have a workplace mental health first aider, you can signpost employees to the right mental health professional or service when necessary. This can help employees get the right help and treatment that they need to improve their mental health.
Reason 7: To Spot Early Warning Signs of Poor Mental Health Amongst Staff
Spotting the early warning signs of poor mental health can help prevent issues from escalating. Some early warning signs of poor mental health include:
- Changes in physical appearance or hygiene
- Increase in absenteeism
- Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger or emotion
- Withdrawal from social activities or interactions
- Sudden changes in work performance
If you are able to spot these early warning signs, you can take action to support the employee in question. This could involve signposting them to the right resources or services, or simply having a conversation with them about their wellbeing.
Reason 8: To Improve Employee Retention Rates
If employees feel like their mental health is being supported in the workplace, they may be more likely to stay within the organisation. This may be because they feel valued and appreciated, which can lead to better overall job satisfaction. This can also benefit your company’s reputation, as it may be seen as a supportive and inclusive organisation.
Reason 9: To Reduce Business Costs Related To Mental Health
Unsupported mental health problems amongst employees can lead to a number of business costs, such as:
- Reduced productivity costs
- Increased absenteeism costs
- Higher staff turnover rates
If you begin the mental health conversation in the workplace and take action to support employees with mental health issues, you could help to reduce these costs. This can benefit your organisation as a whole, as well as the individual employees.
Additionally, employees who feel like their mental health is being supported are less likely to take time off work due to mental health-related absences. This can help to improve employee productivity and decrease absenteeism rates.
To assess the cost of mental health-related absenteeism and presenteeism on your business, try using the HMRC Workplace Wellbeing Tool to help. Our HMRC Tool Guide can help you get started.
Your Next Steps
In conclusion, there are many reasons why it’s important to talk about mental health at work, like the support it offers employees living with mental health issues and how talking about mental health can help to reduce the stigma surrounding it.
Now, you might be wondering exactly how to talk about mental health at work. What are your next steps?
Create an Open Culture Around Mental Health at Work
To create an open culture around mental health at work, try the following:
- Encourage frank and open conversations about mental health. This could be done through regular check-ins with employees, or by setting up an anonymous feedback system.
- Make sure all employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health without fear of discrimination or retribution. This includes managers and senior leaders.
Create a Safe Space for Employees to Talk About Mental Health
To create a safe space for employees to talk about mental health, you could try the following:
- Set up a business mental health first aid programme. This will give employees someone to talk to about mental health, without fear of judgement.
- Encourage employees to take regular breaks whether they’re in an office or part of a remote team. This could include taking a walk in nature or taking a mental health day during a particularly busy or stressful time.
Invest in Company-Wise Business Mental Health Training
Finally, invest in company-wide business mental health training. This will ensure that all employees are aware of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health, and know how to support their colleagues if they start a conversation.
There are a variety of mental health training programmes available that could benefit your business, including:
- Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training
- Mental Health Awareness Training
- Mental Health Champions Training
- Suicide First Aid (SFA) Training
Mental health in the workplace is an important issue that should be given the attention it deserves. By following the tips above, you can create a supportive and inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health. This will benefit both your employees and your business as a whole.