Health and wellbeing has been a hot topic in the employee relations benefits arena for some time with employers providing benefits and support to help staff improve their physical wellbeing. And now more than ever, employers are keen to address mental wellbeing and mental health issues too, as good mental health keeps employees performing well and gives them a sense of wellbeing.
Thanks to charity led campaigns, there’s a move to reduce stigma and increase awareness of mental illnesses. Campaigns that include documentaries and tv commercials featuring celebrities certainly help to show that mental illness and problems with mental wellbeing can affect anyone.
So how can we build on this in the workplace to support those suffering in silence?
It’s estimated that 1 in 4 adults will have problems with their mental wellbeing at some point in their lives. There are lots of potential triggers for mental illness and people cope with things differently, but employers can make a real difference in helping their employees to cope – certainly whilst they’re at work.
It doesn’t matter how many great initiatives you have in place to help your employees if people are unable to talk about their concerns for fear of the affect it might have on their career or relationships with colleagues.
Employers need to develop an open workplace culture where people feel they can talk about the way they feel or if they’re struggling to cope. To build this open culture, employers need to demonstrate in a tangible way that they understand issues and have support in place for those who need it.
10 ways to show you care:
1. Provide a resource centre including information and practical tips on common mental wellbeing issues. The ideal place for this would be online so people can access it privately at home whenever they want to.
2. Train ‘wellbeing’ buddies – invest in counselling training for staff volunteers (like you would for first aiders or fire marshalls). These buddies should be a friendly face and a key point of contact for people returning to work following illness perhaps or for staff who feel they’re struggling and need someone to talk to in confidence.
3. Raise awareness of key topics – providing promotional material that suits the workplace such as bathroom bulletins, strategically placed posters or even global emails that touch on health topics and refer them to the resource centre or a list of your trained health buddies.
4. Embrace national awareness days – There’s all year round national awareness days or weeks for various subjects. Mental health awareness week runs from 14 – 20 May 2018 and is organised by the mental health foundation. Look at ways to tie this in with your mental wellbeing internal awareness promotions.
5. Tell your story – a great way of showing empathy and building trust is for managers to share their own stories or feature stories of others within the business who have suffered or care for people who have suffered mental health issues.
6. The trusty employee assistance programme (EAP) – the best ones include lots of advice and information on a range of topics as well as counselling support for employees and their families.
7. Talk to staff individually – a workplace where line managers have a regular catch up with individuals will find it easier to spot the signs of people struggling – particularly where their work performance is suffering.
8. Reduce stress – take the time in employee reviews to look at their workloads to see if what’s been asked of them is reasonable or explore more efficient ways of working. If there’s been changes in the workplace, talk to individuals to address any concerns and ensure a smoother transition.
9. Provide a place where people can go – encourage people to get away from their work station during breaks. It’s too easy to fall into the habit of working through lunch – particularly for those with a desk job.
10. Professional training – if stress is a particular issue in your workplace, consider running stress management workshops or call in external consultants who can look at the way individuals work and give them helpful tips to manage their work more effectively. Providing your people managers with mental health first aid training will help them to spot the signs and so they can offer a first line of help.
To help you to monitor effectiveness of your initiatives, it’s a good idea to review your sickness stats to look for improvements or trends. Asking the right questions in employee surveys are also a good way of finding out more from your employees and gauging their general wellbeing.
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