On October 10th organisations of all sizes and locations show their support for World Mental Health Day. The aim is to promote better mental health for everyone and whilst social media is alive with support, how much attention is being given to mental health in our workplaces and how can employers respond effectively to these complex situations on an ongoing basis rather than just for one day?
It is widely recognised that mental health has become such a broad topic. With so many varying conditions, it can appear to be very confusing for managers and a legal minefield. This can lead to frustration and can be incredibly time consuming especially if they are unaware of the circumstances or if they are unsure on the correct way to manage the issues when they arise.
Previously, employers would say “when you’re at work, you leave your problems at the door” those days are long gone, so employers are having to rethink how they manage these situations to avoid potential discrimination claims. Today, there is a much greater emphasis upon organisations to be more proactive when it comes to supporting employee’s mental health and wellbeing.
With more than two thirds of employees hiding their mental health conditions from their employers, the weight of this alone can become more of a challenge than the condition itself. Therefore, it is important for employers to be open minded when it comes to looking out for the signs that an employee may require additional support.
More than one in five agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them
14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidanceSource: Mind 2018
So why should employers care about the mental health of their employees?
There are several reasons; positive mental health can not only help support employees when they need it most, but it can also help retain your best talent, reduce absence and minimise costs. It is important for managers to be aware of how to effectively manage situations when they arise and fully understand the risks associated with mental health conditions in the workplace. Some may be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 which could leave employers open to costly discrimination claims.
One way that many employers are taking a proactive approach is by promoting positive mental health at work. This is a great place to start and doesn’t have to cost the Earth, for example, many employers have access to Employee Assistance Programmes or Occupational Health facilities, these are easily promoted within the workplace and can have a big impact.
Mental health charities such as Mind and Heads Together are working with organisations to end the stigma by changing how employers’ approach and support mental health in the workplace. These charities have a wealth of resources available that are free to download from their respective websites.
Training has a large part to play in supporting managers to handle tricky cases and how to approach difficult conversations. Some organisations are taking things one step further by introducing Mental Health First Aiders or mental health champions within their businesses to proactively support employees if they don’t feel comfortable with speaking to a manager about their problems.