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16th May, 2019

Good Mental Health at Work

Hands up who has ever called in sick because of a cold? Or perhaps a dodgy stomach? Most of us, right? And you’d usually tell your boss the truth about why you’re not coming in, wouldn’t you?

What about calling in sick because you’re feeling overwhelmed, or anxious, or perhaps you’ve had a panic attack. Would you tell the truth then? 

Two miniature businessmen in suits sit on top of a large briefcase in the rain, to demonstrate mental health

Mental Health in the Workplace – an important issue

Research shows that mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK. Nationally it accounts for 70 million lost working days and costs UK employers up to £42 billion per year. And that’s not taking in to account the personal impact on individuals, teams and wider organisations.

So how do you try and address this (often hidden) issue in your workplace? We’ve been talking about this for Mental Health Awareness Week and have collected the following simple ideas for actions in your workplace that could have a big impact…

Remove the Stigma

Make your workplace a safe space to talk about mental health and work-related stress. Whether you’re big or small, opening up the conversation in the workplace could go a long way to helping staff feel supported.

ACTION: Look at ways you can factor in discussions about Mental Health in what you already do. Is there something you can do in your weekly team meetings, or your 121s with staff?

Mental Health Care Policies and Procedures

There are already various legal obligations for employers to identify, prevent and protect work-related stress and the associated problems. Therefore your workplace should already have some policies in place. However, could you go further? Perhaps signpost useful resources, or assign a Mental Health First Aider who is trained and ready to help?

ACTION: Many staff file their handbook away on the first day and never read it again! As a manager or HR representative make sure you are familiar with your companies policies around stress and the workplace, and what your company offers in terms of support. 

Plan for the Inevitable

It is a fact of working life that people will take time off or will leave the business. However, have you ever considered the impact that a gap in the workforce, however short term, can have on the rest of your employees? An increased workload and the expectation to ‘pick up the slack’ can have a detrimental affect on mental health. This often results in more people taking time off or leaving. This is true in all businesses but exaggerated in small teams, where the impact can be huge when someone leaves. 

ACTION: Plan ahead! What will you do if someone leaves or takes time off? Who covers the work and what is it that needs covering? As a manager it is crucial that you plan ahead and own this so your staff don’t feel stressed.

Mental Health Training

As a business, you’ll no doubt have a First Aider and a Fire Warden. But what about a Mental Health First Aider? Although a relatively new idea, training someone up to be the ‘go to’ person for any mental health issues in your business can be hugely beneficial. Training is available to teach someone to spot potential signs of distress and help them become the expert. 

ACTION: Investigate training that exists through such organisations as Mind and Team Mental Health. Think about who would be a good representative to start the training – ideally you would get everyone trained over time. 

Flexibility and Understanding

Treat your staff like human beings. Sounds simple, but many businesses simply forget to so this. This can result in high staff turnover and extensive sick days, leading to a drop in general productivity, rocketing recruitment costs and the company gaining a bad reputation.

ACTION: Make sure your staff take proper breaks from work and achieve some balance in their day. Whether it be monitoring holidays, checking people leave work on time or providing a proper break or staff room, these small things can all add up to provide a healthier work environment for all.

Shameless plug alert!

Whether you need to arrange short-term cover or recruit new permanent staff members, we are here to help! As an independent recruitment agency specialising in local people for Office and Industrial jobs, we can help you bridge the gap and find the perfect person (or people!) to take your business forward. Call us on 01625 511502 or send us your details for a no-obligation, informal chat.

Many of the ideas in this blog have come from the fantastic Team Mental Health and their blog post from last year on Supporting Mental Health at Work.

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