In recent years, lots of management teams have started using an open door policy giving employees a chance to come forward with their problems. However, this doesn't always mean that every employee is going to feel like they can come forward when it's something to do with their mental health.
1 in 4 people experience, or have experienced, poor mental health. The workplace is where we spend most of our time, where we make friends, and make a living. Having a good job can lead to good mental health and wellbeing. But, other times, work can be the cause of poor mental health which leads to absenteeism. However, there are lots of things that employers can do to encourage employees to speak up about their mental health.
Creating an open and supportive culture at work is the key; a place where people feel like they can come forward about their mental health. Whether it’s checking in with your team or encouraging them to come to you, there’s a lot that you can do as an employer to support your employees.
Honesty is the best policy
It can be hard for someone to open up about their mental health, especially if you (as an employer) are the first person that they are talking to about it. You should make sure that they are aware that you are willing to help them. Talking about mental health openly within your office can normalise it as a regular topic of conversation. You should ask open and non-judgemental questions to your employees and let them explain their needs.
Listening is an incredibly important skill in the modern workplace. If your employees feel like you listen to them and act on their suggestions they are more likely to come to you when they need somebody to listen to them. The ability to listen and take things on board will encourage them to have the same attitude to their mental health.
You might have a mixture of external and internal resources and these should be shared with your employees and HR departments are very important when it comes to helping employers deal with mental health. Some workplaces (iHASCO included) have also allowed staff to become Mental Health First Aiders. If you see an employee or colleague that is feeling anxious or is exhibiting symptoms of poor mental health, encourage them to use the resources available to them. There are also third party resources that can help.
Mental health is about as personal as it can get. As an employer, you should make sure it’s known from the outset that anything employees come forward with is kept confidential. This kind of sensitive information should be shared with as few people as possible.
Check-in from time to time
One-to-one catch-ups can be really effective. Now, of course, this might not always be possible depending on the size of your organisation but they’re good for starting a conversation about mental health. This time can be used to talk about anything from work to personal issues or the employee's mental health. If there’s something that is bothering them then encourage them to seek support or share with them the support that is available to them.
If you create a workplace culture where you speak openly about mental health and all of the resources that you have available, then employees will know that mental health matters and that openness is important. If you are aware of someone with poor mental health then you could organise meetings to discuss the topic and simply be there to listen and help. This will make your workplace a welcoming place for all! Some businesses have also allowed employees (and employers) to share their own stories to inspire others to speak about theirs.
It is so common for employees - and employers - to get swept up in the world of work and get lost in the hours of the day, which, if it becomes a habit, can mean that their personal life suffers. Your workplace should be a professional workspace, but it should also have a relaxed, patient and positive culture. Offering things like a Book Club or Yoga Club can welcome mental health benefits to reduce stress and provide an opportunity to relax.
Employees should be encouraged to take the holiday that they are given and work the hours they are allocated. Of course, this doesn't mean you are never allowed to work late but if you notice an employee constantly working longer than their allotted hours and they appear to be struggling with their workload, then it might be time to ask them how they are finding it, and whether they need any help.
Employees often follow their boss’ lead when it comes to taking holiday and time away from the office. If you are emailing while on holiday and responding to clients, they may well feel like they have to do the same (regardless of whether you want them to or not).
Addressing Mental Health at work may seem like a large task, but it starts with small steps to make your employees feel like they can speak to you about their mental health as if it were a physical illness. It should be spoken about openly and honestly in all offices to break the stigma surrounding mental health.