As Gloucestershire and Bristol based HR Consultants, we have noticed a significant shift in the last year from business owners and their focus, understanding and investment in their employee’s mental wellbeing. A few of our clients have had team members become Mental Health at Work First Aiders, they attended the Mental Health First Aider course by local Bristol based business, My White Dog. These small steps are incredibly positive and we are proud to support our clients. Yet, as always, there’s still more we can be doing to lift the stigma.

According to Bristol City Council report from 2018 “Approximately £281 million is lost each year by businesses and employers in Bristol due to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and staff turnover caused by mental ill health”  Read more about the impact Mental Ill Health is having on the Bristol region alone here. Despite improvements and the greater awareness of Mental Health, more can certainly be done.

We were excited to learn about the Gloucestershire Wellbeing (GLoW) initiative which Gloucester County Council are supporting many businesses with, the aim being to provide local firms with resources to promote good mental health and wellbeing, by focusing on all the contributing factors and taking actions that will make a difference.  Some of the organisations already co-operating in this include; Active Gloucestershire, Age UK Gloucestershire, Cloudtamers Ltd, GFirst LEP, Gloucestershire Young Carers, Infobuzz, Specsavers Cheltenham, Ten2Two, Young Gloucestershire – to name just a few. To find out more about this great local initiative and the full list of firms already involved, click here.

Another year has flown by and today we once again mark ‘World Mental Health Awareness Day’, 2019. It is the reminder we all need as business owners to ensure our teams and management are ok. Encourage honest and open conversations, act kindly, actively listen to what is said, understand the triggers for your employees and ensure your business has a structure in place to support those suffering with mental ill health. Remember that your people are your greatest assets.

How can your business support your employees with their mental health:

Company Culture – starting at the top, encouraging top level management to be open, honest and share their experiences – modelling disclosure and vulnerability as strengths, not weaknesses – reducing the stigma and creating a safe, space for honesty. Promote and learn how to actively listen, respond, question where relevant and take on board what you’re being told by colleagues.

Training – invest in training staff to be Mental Health at work First Aiders, the government recommend, for each 8 people there should be one Mental Health at Work First Aider appointed.  Although this isn’t law it’s a sensible recommendation and positive investment in helping your teams.

Policies – make sure you have up-to-date policies in your employee handbooks, we’ve recently updated our Stress Policy to Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy.  For someone suffering with mental ill health, understanding the procedures in place will support and manage their expectations. Please contact us on: 0844 854 6704 if you would like any support with a bespoke policy for your business or would like your existing one reviewed.

Creative solutions – If you have an employee that has informed you they are suffering with a mental illness, support them and be creative in your solutions. As noted in your policy; consider flexitime, the working environment, more regular 1:1 catch up meetings, an allocated ‘safe space’ to store medication and the possibility of easing back into work if somebody is returning to the company following a period of absence.

Regular Reviews – Having an effective appraisal programme in place provides you with a way of monitoring an employee’s progress and more importantly inputs a time for a manager to sit down 1:1 with them and have a review, talk and listen, try and spot any early signs. Communicating effectively with your employees is vital to their wellbeing and in-turn improves motivation and productivity.

Basic needs – ensure the most basic needs of the business are met. Consider the lighting and ventilation of the office – ensuring your employees are able to complete their work in a comfortable environment. Review your rewards/benefits package, could you consider offering gym discounts? Introducing a ‘Fruit bowl Friday’? Encourage teams to participate in a healthier lifestyle with charity sporting events. All of these are small and basic adaptations that can potentially have a large influence.

We see regularly the impact of how good management of mental health at work can make the world of difference, these small steps ensuring that ‘good stress’ doesn’t tip over into ‘bad stress’ can not only help individuals but it is likely to save you time and money too if you can help prevent someone from being absent from work.

If your business doesn’t have anything in place and immediate action is required, the following charities can offer support and advice:

  • Mind: 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritians: 116 123
  • Rethink: 0300 5000 927
  • Family Lives: 0808 800 2222

New HSE Guidance – Key Changes

We’ve mentioned this previously, at the beginning of 2019 the HSE issued new guidance which now better incorporates mental health in the workplace, the key changes are summarised below:

  • Health and Safety risk assessments should take account of mental health risks as well as physical risks
  • Organisations should manage and mitigate the risks of mental health harm at work and consider ways to support employees with mental health issues
  • Treat mental health in the same way as physical health, eg, by having mental health first aiders as well as the usual first aiders – if appropriate.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and how your business is tackling mental health in the workplace. Please get in touch with us directly: CitrusHR Consulting, call us on 0844 854 6704 or email us at: info@citrushrconsulting.com.