Unfortunately, mental health remains one of the toughest matters to discuss in a work environment. Not only do you have the actual stress of trying to balance your professional obligations with your own wellbeing, but there is also still a stigma associated with suffering from a mental health problem.
The Thriving at Work report found that mental health costs employers between £32 billion and £43 billion, meaning it isn't a problem that businesses can afford to ignore. With as many as one-quarter of all people experiencing some form of mental health problem during their lifetime, businesses need to ensure they are tackling the issue head on to make sure they're not draining their talent pool.
So how do you prioritize employee wellbeing without making it worse?
For many people, it's still embarrassing to talk about mental health problems. As a society, this is slowly changing but employers need to be at the forefront of this shift. Think about holding an awareness week where you can get guest speakers - internally or externally - to talk about their experiences with mental health. This will bring the matter into the open and position the company as an employer that is willing to highlight such an important issue.
Because there is still a stigma for those struggling with their mental health, employees can be hesitant to talk to their employers about issues they might be having until it gets to the point where they can no longer work. To address this, ensure you have a comprehensive policy on mental health problems where it's made clear that any issues of this nature will be treated like any other health problem.
Prioritize hands-on management
The best way to ensure employees are flagging up any issues they have, whether concerning their mental health or not, is to ensure that managers are communicating effectively with them. Managers should be the first point of contact and employees should feel comfortable sharing personal information with.
Establishing good working relationships with each and every member of their team needs to be a priority for every manager. If you find that certain employees aren't gelling with their manager, seriously consider assigning another professional to them.
Employers need to ensure that they are doing more than just talking the talk. Making sure there is support on offer to employees who experience mental health problems is an essential part of tackling the problem. Of course, what you're able to provide will depend on your budget, but even having free resources to advise people about where to get help can be a step in the right direction.
If possible, you should include mental health support as part of the employee benefits you offer. Doing this will ensure that employees understand their employer takes mental health seriously and are willing to take steps to support their staff through it.
Remove any prejudice
It goes without saying that employers should prevent employees being exposed to prejudice of any kind but it can appear in ways that people aren't even conscious of, especially when mental illness is concerned.
For example, if you think an employee’s work life is already stressful, don’t simply hand a great campaign to someone else because of this. This isn't fair on either the individual or the client. Instead have a conversation with employees that have cited mental health problems and discuss ways their work may be contributing to the problem. If a new project comes up and they're the best candidate, discuss the matter with them and see what they think about taking it on.
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