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Do you know how to handle mental health issues in the workplace?
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At this year’s recent World Mental Health Day, the main theme was Mental Health in the Workplace so we thought we’d give you some advice about what is meant by mental health issues in the workplace and our top tips to help those of you who are faced with such issues.

It’s much more normal nowadays to have open discussion about mental health issues. Nevertheless, it can still be a very tricky area for an employer to deal with sensitively and effectively and employees often find it difficult to talk about.

What do we mean by mental health issues?

It’s a pretty broad ‘catch-all’ term and can range from people feeling a bit down to anxiety and depression and at the other end of the spectrum it may be a diagnosed disorder such as bipolar. So from an employer’s perspective it’s always better to err on the side of caution when dealing with staff especially if they say they are feeling stressed or anxious.

It’s worth remembering that it’s more common than we may think; the Government’s Department of Health advises that one in four of us will experience mental ill health issues at some point in our lives.

How can this affect the workplace?

According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), in 2015/16 over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill. This amounts to nearly 40% of all work-related illness. So the figures suggest that it’s something to be very aware of as an employer. Both to make sure your follow the law, and ensure staff are happy and productive.

A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study highlighted the impact that mental ill health can have. The study found that:

  • 80% find it difficult to concentrate
  • 62% take longer to do tasks
  • 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
  • 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.
  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues

The study also found that, for the first time, symptoms of stress are the major cause of long-term absence.

Our top tips for employers:

Clearly the benefits of getting it right outweigh the alternative. So we should all be aiming for a motivated happy workforce, where staff feel good about themselves and the contribution they make to their working environment.

We highly recommend that you follow these 6 top tips:

  1. Work on the culture of your business and commit to promoting positive mental health by dealing with it with understanding and as a valid reason for absence.
  2. Have open processes and procedures that all staff have access to at all times. On the citrusHR system we have a Stress Policy and a Sickness Absence Policy.
  3. Make sure staff know who to talk to should they have a problem.
  4. Train your line-managers to spot the symptoms such as unexplained changes in work productivity or standards or unexplained absences and try to have conversations as early as possible.
  5. Handle difficult conversations carefully and sensitively and make notes throughout. It can be difficult to broach the subject of mental illness with an employee. Probe sensitively and re-assure them that there is support for them within the organisation. You also have to consider the impact the person may be having on the rest of the team and deal with that equally sensitively.
  6. You will have to be prepared to make reasonable adjustments as mental health issues can amount to a disability in the eyes of the law.  Reasonable adjustments can help the employee cope at work, such as extra rest breaks or daily help with assessing work priorities.

A staff member with a mental health problem should be taken seriously and listened to (don’t make assumptions), and it should not be overlooked as that can be equally stressful for everyone involved – including you as the business owner. It’s often helpful to have an outside perspective, and we’d recommend using an external HR consultant to help you through.

Get HR Support

If you need advice about handling mental health in the workplace, our HR consultants can help.

Get in touch on info@citrushr.com or give us a call on 0333 444 0165 to find out more about how we can help your business with friendly, expert HR support.

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