Mental health problems affect around one in four people in the UK and around 1 in 5 adults in America, with common issues including depression, anxiety and stress. As well as presenting personal issues for each person affected, Acas reports that mental health problems cost UK employers around £30 billion a year, taking into account factors like absence, production and recruitment.
Although visibility of mental health conditions is improving, many workers still find that they are being treated differently once they are open about the issue. According to HR News, over a quarter of employees who have been diagnosed with a mental health problem are treated differently by a manager (27 per cent) and by colleagues (22 per cent).
With many of those who are open about the mental health condition they suffer from experiencing such treatment, it is perhaps unsurprising that around 39 per cent of workers end up keeping theirs secret when in their workplace. While employees are encouraged to discuss physical sickness, injury and ailments with their company, there is a difference when it comes to mental health, which needs to be addressed.
Creating an environment where employees know they can talk about their mental health concerns and understand that they can receive support is vital to ensuring the overall health and wellbeing of a workforce. On top of this, proactively supporting mental health issues can provide benefits for a business, including talent retention and overall employee satisfaction.
There are a number of ways you can support those with mental health conditions in the workplace. Read on for some suggestions.
Create a mental health strategy
Every company should ensure there is a mental health strategy in place, as well as one for dealing with physical illness. You cannot simply cover mental health under an existing staff sickness strategy or policy, as it presents a different range of challenges and requirements.
A mental health strategy needs to reflect the requirements of your employees in order to set key goals. The Harvard Business Review notes the importance of employee feedback in the creation of a strategy, so as to provide insight on what the company needs to improve on and how particular goals can be met.
On top of this, your strategy should be based on recommendations from trusted bodies to ensure that you are approaching the issue in the correct way. This also means that your strategy should be fluid so as to better represent changes in mental health treatment, meaning you need to regularly check it is still in line with current recommendations.
Provide company training
Once there is a strategy in place that lays out clear steps, it is important to provide company wide training that supports it. Not only will training help to inform employees of the new strategy and policies, it will also increase awareness of mental health issues and lay the foundation for a supportive workplace culture.
Business in the Community suggests starting mental health training just as you would any other form of training, with the leadership team and senior members of staff. Not only will this help to address any resource issues when it comes to training other staff members, as managers can provide a session for their team, it also helps to underpin the fact that senior members of staff are responsible for other employees' wellbeing as well as their own.
You can also tailor your training to the staff you are giving it to, as requirements will alter depending on the level and job role, which is important to take into account. This should help all employees better understand how to address issues relating to mental health, offer support to colleagues and respond to mental health concerns.
Regularly assess individual needs
When an employee makes you aware of their mental health conditions, it is important to act in line with your strategy and in a way that is beneficial to them. This doesn't just involve your initial response to the issue, as regular assessments are vital to supporting employees and ensuring their wellbeing is continually looked after.
You should be sure to book in regular meetings with individuals, with the time between them suiting what they feel is appropriate. These should be used as a forum for them to openly discuss their concerns and to see what the company can do to ensure their working environment is suited to their needs.
From these meetings, you may find that they can benefit from a reduced workload, flexible working, an altered working environment or time off. It is important to listen and understand their concerns, as well as take on board their recommendations and any that come from their doctors. You should also make sure they understand that anything you discuss is confidential to better create an environment of trust and openness when it comes to mental health.
Insights for Professionals provide free access to the latest thought leadership from global brands. We deliver subscriber value by creating and gathering specialist content for senior professionals. To view more HR content, click here.