Published: 13/12/2017

Addressing mental health issues in the workplace

Every year 70 million workdays are lost to issues relating to mental health. This usually centers around issues that concern depression, anxiety, bereavement or other stress related conditions. It's a sad and alarming state of affairs. Mental health issues now account for the highest rate of sick leave in the UK. Greater awareness is required in the workplace to address a rising problem in society.

Business owners, who employ a considerable number of staff, need to be aware of possible mental health issues that someone in your workplace might be experiencing. Equally, every business owner needs to be aware of how to address and deal with mental health issues. With an issue as sensitive as this one it is important to treat matters delicately. Show that as well as being a good boss that you are a decent human being. Let's look at some ways to not only address mental health but to promote a culture that can help cultivate a healthy working environment for your employees.

Put mental health at the heart of internal communications

Just by talking about this shows that you understand and appreciate that it is an issue. Promote awareness of mental health through leaflets and other publications. That way an  employee, who might be experiencing their own mental health issues, can be given communications that might help them. 

Why not create some internal marketing by speaking about mental health statistics in the company newsletter. This will make you seem more approachable when it comes to this issue. If there is a national or a local charity who address mental health issues consider having a partnership with them. You could even recruit an external speaker to come in to speak on this subject.

Make line managers aware

As an owner of the business it is not your job to micromanage every single aspect of what goes on in your business. This is why line managers are employed, and they will report to you with how targets are being met. So really it is they who are the ones who need to be informed and capable of detecting any signs of mental health issues that may appear.

There are a number of courses that can be taken to make line managers aware of the importance of wellbeing. Do your research and pick one which you feel management would benefit from.

Fostering an open culture

It’s a common assumption that mental health is something that should be addressed at the point of crisis. This approach is not correct. Instead awareness of mental health should be a focal point of your company culture; firstly to remove the stigma around the subject but also to make an individual feel comfortable about talking about it. This also means having set guidelines in your company policy pertaining to mental health - again this just demonstrates that your business takes this matter very seriously.

You could also consider providing some assistance program. That way if an employee is experiencing mental health issues they can address it in private if they wish.

Watch out for the signs

This is slightly trickier: try and watch out for anything that might seem out of place with employees. For instance, Is someone getting in late regularly; do they appear highly stressed or sensitive or volatile; maybe they are looking a bit more tired than usual. We stress to you not to equate any of this with a mental health issue immediately. However it would be a good idea to check up on that person and simply ask them if everything is okay. Show genuine concern for that person’s well being. This is the best possible thing you could do without appearing intrusive.

And if you do manage to detect any early symptoms of a mental health issue the better it will be for you and more importantly your employee. You could suggest they take it easy - perhaps some reduced hours or extended leave. You could even refer them to someone in counselling. It's important to demonstrate to your employee and your staff that you are doing your utmost to support that individual in their recovery.

Here at Payzone, we believe in championing wellbeing and tackling mental health issues early so that people can lead happy fulfilling working lives. Find out more about us.

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