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Last updated: 20.12.18

How to look after your Employees' Mental Health

Why is Mental Health so important?

Mental health is increasingly recognised as being just as important as physical health, but there are still many ways in which we can all do better in terms of helping our friends, family and colleagues with theirs. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways in which you can help your employees with their mental health if you’re an employer or manager.

Time off work is one of the biggest knock-on effects of poor mental health, with stress in particular costing thousands of hours of productivity to the UK work force every year.

There’s also general productivity and workplace harmony issues that can arise when employees are facing mental health issues, so it’s in your best interests to ensure that you really do have your employees’ wellbeing at the top of your list of priorities. Let’s take a look.

Be Proactive

Many mental health issues are created and impacted by a person’s work, which means that you can take steps to help ensure that these aren’t an issue. If you can create a great company culture and give your employees every chance of working with good mental health, then you’ll find that problems don’t crop up as frequently, and you’ll reap all the benefits of a happy, healthy workforce.

The importance of a good Work life balance

Achieving a good work and life balance is one of the main factors that affects how happy a person is, and as an employer you have a great degree of control over this. It can be tempting to squeeze all the time out of your employees that you possibly can, but this just isn’t effective in the long run. Many large companies around the world have realised this, which is why there are strict limits on contacting employees outside work, or even allowing workers to take work home with them. This isn’t to say that your employees can’t finish bits off when they get home, or pick up emails outside office hours, but encourage everyone to be practical about it.

What can cause poor mental health?

Poor mental health at work often comes about from unresolved issues bubbling under the surface in the workplace environment. Where employees have too much work, or don’t get along with their colleagues, stress can build, and this can develop into mild or even severe cases of depression if left unresolved. As a result, one of the most proactive things that you can do as a manager or employer is to encourage your employees to talk to you or a designated member of staff regularly. This certainly doesn’t have to be specifically in relation to mental health, but a quick and honest catch up about how things are going - not necessarily an appraisal of their work - can really help.

Learn to Spot the Signs

It’s not always easy to know whether or not any of your employees has a problem with their mental health, which means that it’s worth taking the time to understand some of the main signs. Catching something early before it develops into something more significant is very important. Mental health problems that affect the workplace are certainly not always caused at work, so you might not know there’s anything wrong until you see such a sign.

The best way that you can spot a potential problem is by keeping an eye on your employees and noticing if they have notable changes in behaviour from the norm. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Lateness and absence
  • Lower productivity
  • Distraction
  • Confusion

It’s important to note that someone displaying one of these signs is not necessarily dealing with a mental health issue, but rather that these are potential signs.

Find Solutions

Where you do believe that one or more of your employees is facing mental health difficulties, it really helps for you to find solutions that may help them. Many employers may not realise the effect that they can have by making some small changes, and ultimately, this will benefit the business as a whole.

The most important thing that you can do initially is to sit down and discuss the issues with the individual. Explain the situation from your point of view, and that you’ll support them however you can. If the individual is struggling as a result of workplace issues, then you have in your power to remedy them. If the underlying problems are from outside work, then consider the ways in which you can be flexible that may help the individual. Could you give them a different working pattern? Do you think they should be given some time off to deal with their mental health? Can you recommend a service that might help them.

There’s rarely a single solution to situations such as this, but always remember that as an employer you often have the power to improve the issue. For more information about mental health in the workplace, consider taking the Virtual College Mental Health Awareness course. Our course on safeguarding adults and the mental capacity act also contains information that may be of use. Click here to find out more.