Managing and Supporting Mental Health at Work

Managing and Supporting Mental Health at Work

There are many mental health issues which affect us at work, and although people can experience these at any time, the workplace can often amplify the problems. Most of the issues which affect our mental health are brought on by stress, which tops the list as the common cause of long-term absence according to the CIPD absence management survey – 2016. Stress is also the second biggest reason for short-term absence after minor illness. Contributing factors to stress in the workplace include unrealistic workload, poor management style, as well as other non-work related factors.

Common mental health problems at work

As a result of too much stress, anxiety and depression are becoming more prominent. According to the same absence survey, around 40% of management reported an increase in the reported cases of mental health problems year-on-year. Employees who suffer from depression experience helplessness and very low moods. These feelings can lead to anger issues, and in some cases, the use of recreational drugs. Anxiety sufferers experience constant worry and can perceive problems as being more significant than they are, which leads to restlessness and tension, resulting in panic attacks and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

In the workplace, personal issues can spill over into work performance. As well as higher sickness rates, staff who suffer from ill mental health are less focused, which leads to lower output and higher error rate. This is why it’s so important to look after not only the physical health of employee’s but their mental health and wellbeing too.

The business case for supporting mental health at the workplace

In the UK, mental health is estimated to cost £26 billion per year – that’s roughly £1,035 per employee. Approximately 32% of this cost is a result of increased absenteeism. A workforce equipped with the resources to treat mental issues, such as access to counselling will take fewer sick days as a result.

By far, the highest cost to businesses is the reduction of productivity. A large proportion of the working population experience mental health issues but continue to work. Reduced productivity can lead to an increase in accidents and potential claims caused by negligence. It is not only essential to support employees reporting issues, but it is also necessary to proactively manage employee mental health.

Supporting employees with their mental health at work is vital beacuse prevention is better than cure

What can employers do to support mental health at work?

It is essential to address mental health in the workplace at every stage; from the initial recruitment process to ongoing mental health checks.

During recruitment, it should be clear what support is provided to employees, both mentally and physically. When scoping out the job specifications, defining the personal qualities an individual should possess is just as important as the qualifications and experience they should have. To manage expectations, a job which involves overseeing a large project should state that ‘there may be a lot of pressure at times’ and not just that ‘applicants must have a positive attitude’. After recruitment, it’s also commonplace to conduct a health questionnaire which can cover both mental and physical concerns. The questionnaire should include anything that without support, could affect an employees ability to fulfil their work duties, which could lead to risk in the workplace.

As many doctors may tell you, the best medicine is prevention, and by recognising and treating the signs associated with poor mental health, it’s much less likely that employee issue will go untreated. Ensuring that line-managers receive the proper training can be the first line of defense. It’s also important that somebody is made accountable for employee mental health, in a similar way to a fire warden or first aider.

Trained line-managers should monitor and review both individual and team workloads to spot any stress causing issues early. Providing regular opportunities speak openly, such as one-to-ones, helps to build trust and makes it more likely that employees will speak out before matters become harder to manage.

What are the most common work based stress triggers?

The early spotting of and management of these common triggers is the most effective way to ensure the wellbeing of your workplace:

  • Long working hours with few or no breaks
  • Irregular working hours – unfair shift patterns
  • Unmanageable workloads and unrealistic deadlines – not having enough resource to finish a job on time
  • Poor working environment – uncomfortable temperatures or cramp working conditions
  • Excessive noise – loud warehouses or offices
  • Lack of workplace culture – few social activities
  • High-risk roles – dangerous or hazardous working environments
  • Working alone – remote workers or those working in isolation
  • Job insecurity – change in management
  • Negative relations between coworkers

Supporting mental health at work through Free Thinking Therapies

Mental health issues are on the rise, and although awareness is growing, there is still much that employers can do to improve. Having a consistent approach when it comes to managing mental health in the workplace can go a long way in improving the wellbeing of employees, giving them the ability to perform exceptionally well in their day to day tasks. To learn more about how to support mental health at work, read about our employee assistance program and counselling services. Alternatively you can contact us or book an appointment today.