According to recent studies, 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health issue at some point during their life.
These statistics are no surprise as the modern world seems to demand our attention 24/7 and for us to be ‘connected’ whether that through the use of social media, checking emails, logging in to finish work outside of the standard working day, which is common for businesses that are global and have customers overseas where different time zones affect communications.
The idea of a work/life balance, to some, is becoming harder to achieve because of the perceived stressors that society has created. More and more people are ‘addicted’ to their smart devices and the lines between working time and home time are increasingly blurred.
If I asked you where your mobile phone was right now, I’d be willing to bet that it is likely within arms reach away wherever you are and whatever you are doing and that at some point, you will have felt compelled to pick it up and check your accounts ‘just in case..’
A CIPD study published this month found that a quarter of workers feel that their job negatively affects their mental health so the likelihood of businesses coming across and having to manage an employee with a mental health issue is on the increase.
Those who are in high pressured working environments can particularly find themselves at risk, taking on more than they can effectively manage, working late into the evenings at home and/or struggling to ask for help resulting in them starting off on the road to burnout.
Additionally, there are many people who have difficult personal circumstances which impact on their mental health which, if they don’t have sufficient support or know where to turn, can have a negative impact on their mental wellbeing. This in turn may begin to adversely affect their performance and concentration and, often, their ability to be at work which can be distressing to them as well as disruptive to a business.
Sadly there is still some stigma around mental health issues and a real fear of individuals not wanting to raise to their employer that they have a mental health problem in case they are treated differently. This often means that employees call in sick for other reasons and it is only when they are in an absence management process that they finally raise the issue, if at all.
There are also often manager led fears of ‘what if I do/say the wrong thing’ and ‘I don’t want to make it worse’ or ‘ how do I start that sort of conversation?’. It’s hard to believe but there are still some managers who ‘don’t believe in’ mental health issues or don’t take them seriously, which can be detrimental to how such cases may be treated by them.
I have lost count of the amount of times a manager has approached me in a flap because they have a team member who has been signed off with a mental health issue and they have no idea what they can or can’t do and how best to support their team member.
I’ve long been an advocate of businesses taking on board the importance of educating line managers about how to support those who suffer with a mental health issue and encourage managers to take the time to try and understand a little about the condition so they can have an effective and reassuring conversation with their employee to see what they may be able to do to help. This may be through signposting the employee to a company EAP scheme, ACAS, Remploy, MIND or other mental help charity.
There is a lot of help/support out there that people aren’t aware of and the resources and knowledge that can be accessed can be invaluable and help an individual feel less alone and that they are able to do more to help themselves aside rely on their GP, as sadly the NHS is massively under resourced for mental health support.
It is important to bear in mind that some mental health conditions could be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore the need for reasonable adjustments may be needed in the workplace. Don’t make the mistake of making assumptions as to whether an employee could be disabled; ask to obtain a medical report with the employees consent to try and understand the root causes if the impact on their work becomes significant.
Employers should also consider their employee wellbeing strategies as part of their overall engagement offering, after all your employees are your biggest asset so why wouldn’t you want to help them in managing their mental as well as physical health?
In identifying the most beneficial strategy for your business, I’d recommend that you look to understand your employee group and what their particular wellbeing and health needs are in order to understand their challenges i.e. struggling financially, lack of sleep, stress/depression or other mental health concerns so you can identify the right schemes to put in place.
Giving consideration to initiatives such as flexible working, introducing healthcare schemes or knowing where to signpost people to for mental health support will all go a long way to helping.
Mental health first aid courses are a really great tool to start in getting your line managers more knowledgable about spotting the early signs and how to confidently support and manage their employees who may have a mental health condition. ACAS also has some great tips which are worth a read : www.acas.org.uk/mentalhealth.
With Mental Health Awareness Week being upon us this week, promoting this within your business can help promote an open, positive culture.
If you have a current employee mental health issue you feel you’d need some support/guidance get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note our blog posts contain general information and are intended as guidance only and should not be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. Please ensure that you obtain advice tailored to your individual situation before taking action. These posts apply to the UK only.