What can employers do to better support employees with mental health at work?
Mental health in the workplace: Active vs reactive
Recent statistics published by charity MIND reveal that 30 percent of staff feel that they would not be able to talk openly with their manager if they were feeling stressed. More than one in five agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
Sickness absence policies are often used to set out how to deal with an issue of absence once it has arisen. These are vital policies to ensure that absence is kept to a minimum and that businesses have a proactive approach to getting employees back to work. However, these policies focus generally on reactive measures and rarely differentiate between different kinds of sickness.
How many businesses therefore also have preventative measures in place to tackle any issues before this stage is reached? The first meeting an employer has with an employee to discuss mental health concerns should not be once the sickness absence process has been invoked if this could have been identified earlier.
56 percent of employers in MIND’s survey said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance. Charity MIND has set up a mental health at work resource which pools together the resources available to businesses on the web in terms of tackling mental health in the workplace. It is also possible to select your particular industry for more tailored information.
With the cost to business of mental health sickness absence being so high, it is important that to improve staff wellbeing businesses are able to monitor absence and identify any patterns or potential problems. This type of monitoring can assist and guide employers in seeing if there is any underlying issues, what the triggers are for periods of sickness and whether any policy changes need to be made.
Active Steps in Staff Wellbeing
Staff Wellbeing is becoming a hot topic in recent years. Businesses who focus on staff wellbeing are not only likely to have the most productive employees but are also likely to retain key talent. Examples of steps businesses may take to ensure the wellbeing of their employees could include ensuring individuals take their holiday, ensuring staff know what signs to look for in someone who may be suffering with their mental health, exploring more options with flexible working and most importantly creating a culture of openness.
We are regularly hearing in the news that flexible working is on the rise. In a recent Timewise survey, however, 30 percent of workers believed they had less status because they work flexibly. This is therefore likely to be an area in the future where ensuring staff wellbeing will be of particular importance and if not considered could be a risk area for businesses.
Time for Action
There are lots of initiatives going on in Kent and nationally at the moment to tackle mental health and these include the Live Well Kent Campaign, the Heads Together Campaign, the KCC Release the Pressure Campaign. If these initiatives are to succeed, the support of schools and businesses is essential.
Consider going forward how high on the list your staff wellbeing is. Olympian Jack Green on the topic of mental health in the workplace stated this week that for him it is important to find ones purpose not ones short term motivation. How are your employees encouraged to find this?
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