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Right now, someone you know will be fighting a mental health condition, whether it’s noticeable or not. One in six employees are currently dealing with mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression, which has resulted in an epidemic across the UK. Over 5 million people are now signed off from work every year, with data from the NHS disclosing a 14% rise in doctor’s notes relating to anxiety and stress in the past 12 months.
As well as having a huge impact upon individuals, poor mental health in employees also dramatically effects business in terms of staff turnover, loss of productivity, and absences to due depression, anxiety and burnout. 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff well being, but don’t feel they have the right training to implement this appropriately.
Given the severity of the issue, its essential that workplaces start taking the initiative to actively support colleagues by establishing clear processes and incentives within their business. Whether you’re a line manager, HR representative or managing director, the change starts with you.

Check in with your team regularly

Start by organising one to ones with your team on a regular basis. This doesn’t need to be a formal meeting by any means- a friendly monthly chat with colleagues about their work and well being creates an open environment, which encourages employees to talk about any issues they may be having.
It’s important to establish the right tone when approaching colleagues- the last thing you want to do is come across as patronising. Be transparent, honest, and show that you genuinely care about the well being of your colleagues. If an element of trust has been established, the more likely your employees will open up to you.

Lead by example and brush up on training

As an employer, you’re expected to set the standard for your colleagues. It’s your responsibility to create a proactive workplace culture that educates its employees about mental health, as well as creating action plans that are tailor-made for individuals.
While many businesses are making progress, mental health can still be a taboo subject in a number of workplaces. 67% of employees feel scared or apprehensive about discussing mental health with their employer, so start by creating an action plan or agenda of what your management team would like to achieve. It’s also worth seeking feedback from employees to suss out what they think the business can do to improve support networks.
You can then start to consider third party training if you deem it necessary. You’re not expected to become an expert in mental health from here, but training schemes can help you recognise when staff are struggling, and guide you through potential strategies that can be put in place.

Offer flexibility

If colleagues are finding it difficult to attend work or keep up with their regular hours, working towards a more flexible shift pattern can alleviate the pressure. Around 70% of employees want to have a say in when and how they work, and a steady growth in flexible working hours demonstrate that companies are now responding. Flexible working hours have been found to help employees reduce stress and anxiety, as well as allowing more time to focus on personal lives.

Understand their perspective and minimise stigma

Mental health can be incredibly isolating for those suffering, so instead of focusing solely upon business goals, try to put yourself in their shoes. Are they under pressure in their job role? Are they working additional hours? Try to consider lessening their workload or delegating to others if they feel that this may help.
Those experiencing mental health issues also need to be protected from unintentional miscommunications and office gossip, as this can increase stress and anxiety. You can combat this by educating all staff members about mental health and company policies, as well as raising regular awareness in meetings and newsletters.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mental health, and therein lies the difficulty in tailoring your strategy. It can be tough, but taking measures to support employees who are experiencing mental health issues not only creates a more ethical work environment, but also strengthens your brand reputation as a fair business that recognises the importance of its staff. Modern workplaces need to go beyond protocol and profits to ensure employees feel valued and supported.
Read more about managing stress in the workplace by clicking here.
You can also use this handy online guide courtesy of Mental Health UK.