Mental problems are one of the world’s most prevalent health concerns, with the Mental Health Foundation reporting them as one of the main causes of the overall disease burden of the world. In the workplace it is absolutely essential we take time to check in on our employees, especially in the confusion caused by the global pandemic. Mind report 30% of UK staff feel unable to talk to their manager and employers need to do more to improve staff wellbeing if they want their employees to feel supporting.
As an employer, there are things you can do to support your workers, especially during these unusual times and below is a closer look at some of the practices and policies you can put in place:
· Tackle the Stigma
Charities like Time to Change and Mind are working hard to help people accept that their mental health is as important as their physical health. As an employer you should do the same. Take advice and support from these organisations, both have information-packed websites which can be a great place to start. Pledging your commitment to end the stigma around mental health and your employees will already feel work is a safer space to be open about any concerns they might have.
· Be Understanding
Understanding your teams and your people is integral to providing the support they need. Create safe work environments so anybody who may be suffering with their mental health is in an environment they feel comfortable to find help if they need it. HR specialists should be sure to protect against unintentional miscommunication and potential rumourmongering in the workplace. Many people who have poor mental health have self-esteem issues and this may have been further damaged by time spent in isolation in recent weeks. This can lead to overthinking and negative thought patterns so it is important all employees understand the importance of thinking before they speak and framing comments in a positive way where possible.
· Take Action
Making statements and committing to pledges is a great start but you should take action and proactive steps should be in place to support anyone with mental health issues in your workplace. Consider the following actions:
· Employee Surveys
Anonymous employee wellbeing surveys will help give you a general sense of how the work environment is for your employees. You will get a feel for the attitudes and feelings of your employees and may be able to pinpoint problem areas.
· Space for Downtime
If you have the space, create a room dedicated to simply having downtime. This shouldn’t be the staff room but perhaps a lesser-used meeting room. It should be a quiet and relaxing space which allows employees to escape from their screens and make the most of their breaks. Giving employees something to do with their hands other than scroll online such as jigsaw puzzles or mindful colouring books can be a great addition to your quiet space.
· Invest in Mental Health First Aid Training
Mental Health First Aid training for workplaces is readily available and actively encouraging. It is a value investment in workplace mental health and wellbeing and allows you to have certified and qualified mental health first aiders amongst your team. Knowing who the trained individuals are in your workplace allows anyone with issues or in need of support to know where to turn to.
Lead from the Top
An open yet supportive work environment can only exist if there is a true commitment to and culture of care and understanding. Caring about staff as people is essential and those in senior roles should be as empathetic and understanding as those specifically trained in mental health first aid. From regular one-to-ones with your team to a culture of engagement and listening, a positive approach to mental health and wellbeing from the top down is key to supporting those who may need it.
Mind have a great range of useful resources including specific support for people who feel their mental health has been impacted by Coronavirus.