Mental health affects every one of us and now, more than ever, it is vital as an employer not only to spot the signs of mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression, but also to help support your team when they need it.
Sunday 10th October marks World Mental Health Day and acts as a great reminder for employers to show that they are staying aware and looking after their employees in and out of work.
The topic of mental health is increasingly prominent in workplace discussions. According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2019/20 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health.
As a small business employer, creating a workplace culture that allows you to have regular wellbeing conversations with your employees could end up really helping the overall productivity of your business and increasing staff retention.
We know that there will be unique challenges, as well as unique opportunities, as your team return to the office as pandemic restrictions ease. You may already be considering more flexible working arrangements such as hybrid working and other practical steps to help reassure staff. In addition, finding ways to reinforce a positive work environment and supporting your employees through any transitional arrangements, will help you deal with these challenges.
Areas that could affect the mental health of your employees currently include suffering from burnout from prolonged high demand of customers, uncertainty about job security, or anxiety caused by coming back into the workplace after extended periods on furlough or working from home. From one small business owner to another, we understand that mental wellness at work is one of your top priorities, so here are some key principles to get you started.
Tackle the stigma
One in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in time and therefore it is vital to try to create an environment where staff feel supported in raising concerns. However, mental health often remains an elephant in the room, particularly when it comes to work-based conversations, typically because of the uncertainty employees feel about how it will be received by their employer.
Those struggling with their mental wellness may feel judged or fear that they may be perceived differently in a work environment, especially if it could cause problems in their job. If you think that may be the case in your organisation, then campaigns like Time to Change, or World Mental Health Day can be really useful opportunities to get started with general conversations around mental health.
Creating a work environment where your team can talk openly about mental wellness, can access resources to improve knowledge and understanding, and become advocates for mental health discussions, are all ways to challenge any misconceptions about your approach.
Promote open communication
By developing a culture of openness, you’ll encourage employees to ask for support or guidance when they are dealing with any mental health concerns, whether that is because of work or external factors.
Encouraging regular two-way conversations between you and your employees is paramount to normalising the topic. As 30% of employees don’t feel comfortable talking to their managers about mental health, it’s important to try to let your team know that they can speak out freely when they are having a difficult day or are struggling long-term, and make sure they know they don’t need to suffer in silence.
Not all your employees may feel comfortable with an ‘open-door’ policy, so maybe using software for digital surveys to get feedback about their experience at work, including in an anonymised form, may also work. This can encourage employees who are more introverted or less likely to speak out directly to be open and allow you to understand where there may be problems.
Also scheduling regular one-to-ones is a great way for a manager to sound out how an employee is feeling and gives an opportunity for them to listen to concerns in a confidential environment.
Promote your mental health and wellbeing policy
Having a good mental health and wellbeing policy in place, and promoting this to your staff, is a good way of setting out clearly any processes you want to have in place for prevention of mental ill health, as well as how you will approach treatment, and support at work for any employee that needs it.
The policy can also demonstrate that you see mental health concerns on the same level of importance as physical wellbeing issues. It may also help to improve workplace culture and the knock-on effects that can have on employee performance and reducing absenteeism, especially as stress-related absence has increased, with 37% of respondents of a CIPD survey saying that stress-related absence had increased during Covid-19.
Here at citrus HR, we understand that small businesses value their employees and want to use the best practices to make sure they have a happy work life. Our HR software and services can help; with survey tools and developing policies, as well as HR Consultant support, we can guide you to create a productive and cheerful team.
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