Traditionally, mental health and employment haven’t always gone hand in hand. Employers often haven’t been properly trained on how to give mental health support to their staff, while employees who happen to have mental health issues may feel embarrassed or ashamed and unwilling to share their personal struggles. ( Image Credit: Sebastian Šoška/ Pixabay)
Luckily, all that is changing – and the best way for this to become a long term change for the better is for employers to understand and promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. In honour of World Mental Health Day, which is held on 10 October each year, here is a guide to mental health in the workplace, including resources that can help employers support employees who may have a mental health condition. ( Image Credit: Sebastian Šoška/Pixabay)
Understanding Mental Health at Work
The first step to improving mental health at work is to understand it. In short, mental health refers to a person’s social, emotional and psychological wellbeing and can affect feelings, thoughts and actions. It can also play a large role in how someone relates to others, makes choices and handles stress. Poor mental health can range from someone feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or down when going through a difficult time in life to a diagnosed, chronic disorder, such as chronic depression, generalised anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and more.
You can learn more about common mental health problems here.
Why is Mental Health at Work Important?
The mental health of your employees is important for a number of reasons. Staff with good mental health are far more likely to have higher attendance and productivity levels, be engaged in their work and have positive interactions with their colleagues. However, studies show that employees with poor mental health find it harder to concentrate, have less patience, take longer to do tasks and are more likely to participate in conflict – all of which have negative effects on your business and work environment.
How Can I Improve Mental Health at Work?
There are lots of small initiatives you can implement to improve mental health at work – and some progressive companies are even starting entire wellbeing programmes. Consider taking the following first steps:
- Keep the line of communication open – make sure your employees know they can talk to a manager or HR representative if they are going through a tough time
- Offer mental health awareness and resilience training, for example in celebration of World Mental Health Day
- Offer paid time off work for specialist therapy
- Give lots of positive feedback when a member of staff is doing well
- Have a good work-life balance by offering flexible working hours and ample holidays
- Offer free fruits and vegetables to your employees to help improve eating habits
- Promote physical fitness by having onsite classes, such as pilates or yoga, or offering subsidised gym memberships
- Encourage regular breaks
- Have regular on-one-on meetings with employees to check in with them
Resources to Help Improve Employee Mental Health
It’s no secret that a supportive workplace is beneficial for the employee and employer alike. However, if your business hasn’t put much of a focus on mental health at work before, you may want to check out some of these free resources, specifically tailored to employers.
- An Introduction to Mentally Healthy Workplaces
- How to Support Staff Who are Experiencing a Mental Health Problem
- Wellness Action Plans
- How to Take Stock of Mental Health in Your Workplace
View the full list of resources on Mind, the mental health charity.
As you can see, mental health support is an important – and, unfortunately, often overlooked – part of any workplace. Hopefully this article has given you a good basis for understanding and improving mental health within the workplace. By doing some more research and beginning to implement positive changes, you should soon see improvements in how your employees are feeling and performing.