Why you can’t afford to ignore mental health

When one third of all doctors’ notes signing people off work are now for mental health issues and stress [1] , it stands to reason that mental health in the workplace can’t be ignored. Turning a blind eye to mental health will cost you productivity, workplace morale and ultimately your valued and talented staff. 

Faye_Smith_1.jpg

Physical disability or injury receives no end of understanding and resource for employees but due to stigma and embarrassment – mental health rarely gets the same treatment.

Mental health issues can happen to anyone at any time. Triggers could be anything from a hard week at work, to bereavement, to problems at home. Unfortunately, this usually leads to ‘presenteeism’ – with an employee being physically present but through no fault of their own, unable to perform at their best.

All of this begs the question: Why is mental health so taboo? There is an outdated theory that people who are mentally ill are ‘weak’ and this deters people from sharing their needs. It could also be a private problem that they aren’t comfortable talking to a manager or their co-workers about.

As an employer, it’s important to tackle this stigma and end the culture of silence.

 

Faye_Smith_2.jpg

So what can you do to help?

If a change is to happen, then it has to happen from the top down. Senior managers have a duty of care to employees and the good news is – there are plenty of simple changes that can be made to improve your company’s approach.

 First off – making sure your employees are aware of what you can do for them is essential. There’s no point in being a pioneering and understanding employer if no one knows what you’re offering. Mental health is linked to physical health; therefore offering discounted gym memberships are a fantastic place to start.

Training your managers to be aware of mental health issues and how to recognise when an employee is having a hard time will help to address these problems early. Asking if everything is okay and actually caring about the answer can make a huge difference.

If an employee doesn’t feel comfortable talking to a manager then allocating a ‘mental health champion’ who can direct staff to the right resources can be a good alternative to this.

Sometimes an employee simply won’t be comfortable sharing with a manager or a colleague. Providing resources such as phone or face-to-face counselling can be a real lifeline for someone who’s struggling.

The ultimate goal is to have the right culture to allow people to speak up, with no blame and no recrimination, all in a confidential manner.

Employers should try to truly embrace mental health from a human perspective, not just for the bottom line.

If you’re at the beginning of the journey and unsure how to proceed - that’s ok. Making a commitment and getting the conversation started is the first step.

Take action today – you can find out more by visiting the Mind website

1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41124238#