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Brand awareness / Health and safety

*Have you ever sat down to pinpoint particulars to do with Mental Health At Work Programs just to find yourself staring aghast at your computer screen? I know that I have. *

Poor mental health does not equate to poor performance. It’s important to understand that an individual can have a serious mental health problem but – with the right support – can still be thriving at work’. Many people with mental health issues perform at a high level, some with and others without support or adjustments. A manager should also be prepared for a team member to come and talk to them about their mental health. This can be very difficult for both the team member and the manager, so it is vital that the manager stays calm and patient, is supportive and offers reassurance. Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. If you have fewer than five workers you don't have to write anything down. But it is useful to do this, so you can review it later, for example if something changes. If you have five or more workers, you are required by law to write the risk assessment down. Despite the challenges, people in every industry have the right to discuss mental health at work. Your industry may be very progressive and forward thinking; or it may be traditional and immovable. It's more important than ever to break the ice around discussing mental health, making staff aware of it and encouraging people to actively talk about it as part of your company culture. While it should never be required to discuss mental well-being at work, the simple act of checking in can make all the difference. Your colleagues may be going through more than they show (especially now, when home lives and work lives are so closely intermixed) and bottled-up feelings can lead to stress, burnout, and other mental health challenges.

Mental Health At Work Programs

There is overwhelming evidence that work is generally good for mental health and wellbeing. Employees spend a considerable amount of time at work, so the workplace can be used to help change the health of workers. Using the workplace to drive important behavioural changes, we can head off problems and intervene early. An area that can lead to work-related mental health problems is when employees are not able to cope with the demands of their jobs. Mental health is still the elephant in the room in most workplaces – employees are reluctant to raise the subject, for fear of discrimination, while managers often shy away from the subject, for fear of making matters worse or provoking legal consequences. Estimations regarding the costs of mental health absences to employers vary, but an article from HR Magazine back in September 2015 quotes a report from UK Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies which found "70 million working days are lost each year due to stress, depression and other mental health conditions. This costs the UK economy between £70 and £100 billion a year." Organisations can make sure their employee benefits package provides support for workplace wellbeing support today.

Reduction In Absences

According to studies, persons in the United States will spend anywhere between a quarter to a third of their lives at work. On a typical day, we devote more of our waking hours at the workplace than at home or with loved ones. As a result, we must maintain optimum mental stability both at work and at home. Being under pressure is a normal part of life. It can help someone take action, feel more energised and get results. But if they often become overwhelmed by stress, these feelings could start to be a problem. People can respond to emotional stress as if it were a physical threat; muscles will tense, heartbeat and breathing will quicken as the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, and various hormones, including adrenaline, are triggered. Employees with mental health conditions can be performance managed. However, in some cases it may be vital to incorporate clinical and psychosocial information when doing so. This information about the employee’s condition, and its impact on their functioning, will guide the parameters of performance management. Mental health is our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act. Wellbeing is how we feel about ourselves, our relationships and our lives. Together, mental health and wellbeing can affect how we handle stress, the choices we make and how we relate to others. An effective mental health and wellbeing strategy considers prevention, intervention and protection. Subjects such as managing employees with mental health issues can be tackled by getting the appropriate support in place.

Organisations should ensure all staff have clearly defined job descriptions, objectives and responsibilities and provide them with good management support, appropriate training and adequate resources to do their job. Business leaders have an important opportunity, and obligation, to prioritize mental health within their companies. While this may seem daunting, through collaboration and with a few key actions, we can work toward destigmatizing mental health in the workplace to make improved mental health practices the norm among business leaders, rather than the exception. 30% of employees tell no one about their mental health issues. Practically a third of our workforce is going to work with an issue they want to talk about. Unfortunately, many managers are still unaware of how to improve mental health in the workplace. Prospective job applicants are often reluctant to divulge problems. If you are an HR Manager, you need to possess the skills to recognize when an employee is undergoing a mental health situation and appreciate what can be done in terms of providing support. 15% of working adults are living with symptoms of a mental health problem, but only half that have experienced mental health problems have disclosed it at work – statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions reveal that 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem leave the UK workforce each year. Discussing ideas such as employers duty of care mental health is good for the staff and the organisation as a whole.

Civility And Respect

Wellbeing is an essential part of productivity in the workplace. Everyone has mental health on a spectrum that varies greatly throughout their lives and organisations should increasingly focus on ensuring people have good mental wellbeing if they want them to be happy and healthy and productive in the workplace. There are many types of mental health issue. An issue can happen suddenly, because of a specific event in someone’s life, or it can build up gradually over time. The barriers that prevent people with mental health conditions from finding and keeping paid work include low expectations of people’s own ability to cope with work, reflecting low expectations in society in general of the abilities of people with mental health conditions (self-stigmatisation). We need to de-medicalize discussion around mental health because the most important factors are the preventative role of line managers and good people management. In the workplace, an employee with a serious mental health condition might behave in ways that impact on colleagues, for example talking about plans for suicide or being disruptive or aggressive. Part of their ill health may be a lack of insight that their behaviour is impacting on others. Even though it may not be easy to become an employee-centric company addressing how to manage an employee with anxiety it is of utmost importance in this day and age.

The opportunity cost of not promoting good mental health at work, and not supporting people who have mental illness or care for others who do is therefore very, very high. Nonetheless, almost all of us have witnessed people and practices in the workplace that ignore the needs of individuals or sometimes the whole team, and the resulting impacts such as staff turnover, absenteeism, low productivity and poor morale. Organisations should provide training for designated staff in the early identification, causes and appropriate management of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, stress and change management. Research has found that taking regular breaks from your work actually makes you more productive than if you power through your day. Why not try the pomodoro technique? This involves 25 minutes of concentration followed by a 5-minute break and a 15-minute break every 2 hours. And by ‘break’, we mean stepping away from your desk and disconnecting with your work completely. All good mental wellbeing measurement approaches start with a strong foundation. This means engaging early on with key stakeholders who are important to the success of measurement and action. Without support within the business, the whole thing can fall flat. It’s OK to talk about mental health. Sometimes people think that mental health is a private issue that should not be raised or discussed. This is not true. As a manager, your role is to respond to the early warning signs by asking the individual if they are OK and offering support. Similarly to any change that happens within organizations, discussions around workplace wellbeing ideas need planning and implementing properly.

Reward And Recognition

The future working world will be a diverse one, and mental health support will have to evolve to support these different working practices. It’s not enough for support to be purely in-person, for example, as many of us are more comfortable with the distance and relative anonymity of remote communication. Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and we are living in uncertain times. We can each be somewhat responsible for our own mental health in the workplace and can take care for ourselves by managing our exposure to stress. Taking regular breaks away from the desk, particularly outside wherever possible is a simple and effective way of doing this. Other good methods include; developing good social support, effective rest and good sleep hygiene, active strategies such as regular exercise. Uncover additional details relating to Mental Health At Work Programs in this Health and Safety Executive entry.