Looking after employee mental health can be a minefield. Many people don’t know how to look after their own, let alone someone else’s, and no one wants to be presumptuous or intrusive. As difficult as it might seem, there are some steps you can take to create a positive workplace culture that is accommodating, productive, and accepting. In this week’s blog we will look at our tried and tested top 5 tips for looking after employee mental health.
Through a combination of technology, communication, and compassion you can start to encourage your staff to look after their own mental health and that of their colleagues.
As we discovered in last week’s blog, a common trigger factor in the deterioration on employee’s mental health is often a lack of empathy from the employer during stressful times. It is so important that employers support the mental health of their colleagues because a caring, supportive culture strengthens retention, boosts performance, and facilitates recruitment. Not to mention helps to look after fellow humans.
Seen as you have found your way to a wellness blog we are assuming you are invested in the mental health of your employees, so let’s not go into the benefits of it. Rather, let’s examine some practical tips you can adopt in your business to support the mental wellbeing of your staff.
So, without further ado, here are our top 5 tips for looking after employee mental health.
1) Remove the Stigma of Mental Health Issues at Work
It could be easy to believe that none of your employees suffer from poor mental health, but it is unlikely. A 2016 study by the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly half of all adults consider themselves to have had a mental health issue at some point.
It is vital that people suffering with a mental health condition do not feel marginalised, or like they must keep their illness hidden. Discrimination on the grounds of mental health issues is, of course, illegal, but stigmas and stereotypes don’t often fall into this category.
Train yourself and your employees in the different types of mental health issues to remove the stigma and fear associated with them. Promote programmes and schemes that work to improve mental health and openly discuss them. You can also encourage an environment that is free from judgement and discriminatory languages by making it clear that it is not acceptable to use language that could be offensive.
2) Protect Down Time
Have you ever heard anyone say their workload is manageable, fulfilling, and not at all stressful? No, us neither.
Blame it on austerity, British culture, or modern life, but everyone has worked in a company where it is almost expected to be stressed and overworked. It is woven into the fabric of most workforces and is particularly prevalent in publicly funded sectors.
So much so, that a study by HSE into stress shows that 44% of workplace stress is caused by workload and public sectors, such as education and social care, report the highest levels of workplace stress. Stress is enormously damaging to a person’s physical and mental health, so it is clear this needs addressing.
That’s not to say that you need to start halving everyone’s workload to combat stress in the workplace, but it is possible to strike a balance.
For example, make it an enforced policy that staff do not do additional work outside of their standard hours. Put a ban on out-of-hours emails and insist they turn their work phones off when not working.
Discourage people from eating lunch at their desks by providing a small break out space. Or, start a walking club at lunch time and reward staff for taking part.
Protecting your employee’s relaxation time with help them manage their stress levels and feel more rested, meaning they will be happier and more productive.
3) Make Adjustments to Accommodate Employee Mental Health Issues
There is more to mental health than depression, stress, and anxiety. There are phobias, eating disorders, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, OCD, personality disorders, and ADHD to name a few.
The spectrum of mental health disorders and illnesses is broad and many present themselves in different ways. Therefore, the support and adjustments you make must be appropriate. Many of the disorders are considered a disability, so making reasonable adjustments is a legal requirement.
Discuss with your effected employees about adjustments they feel would be helpful-don’t assume you know what they need. Then make every effort to accommodate their needs, whether that be a quiet desk area or flexible working.
It can be useful to share the reasons for the adjustments with the rest of their team (with permission, of course). Informing the team of why adjustments are being made will help to gain their understanding and support and not feel like one person is receiving special treatment.
4) Encourage Mindfulness
Mindfulness is more than just a buzz word. It is the process of being aware of one’s feelings and thoughts, which presents an opportunity to halt negative thoughts and connect with one’s surroundings. As this article by the NHS points out, it can be an effective method of boosting mental health.
The Wellspace app is a very effective tool at helping staff become more aware of their feelings, as it encourages them to actively record their mood and spot trends. Being able to track nutrition and sleep data too will enable them to identify how one affects the other and take positive steps towards caring for their own mental and physical health.
Our training courses help too, as we offer mental resilience training that can be tailored using the data gathered on the app. During the session we teach mindfulness techniques and look at how physical health is intrinsically linked to mental health. You can sign your staff up to these in-house training sessions without already having the Wellspace app.
5) Be Sincerely Empathetic
Having open, sympathetic dialogue about employee mental health issues is so important in shifting a workplace culture towards fully accepting and accommodating mental health. As we discussed in last week’s blog, a common contributing factor towards ill mental health during stressful times is a lack of empathy from managers.
Often, all it takes is a conversation in which you sincerely express sympathy for the situation and ask how they are feeling. They might not want to tell you, and that is fine. But knowing that you do care will mean a lot.
Not everyone is good at demonstrating empathy or being that open about their feelings, and if this is you then you could write it in an email, buy lunch, or make a few rounds of brews to demonstrate your support.
Get in Touch
There are a million other large and small changes you can make to look after your employee’s mental health and help them to do the same. If you would like to have a chat with us for some advice or to trial our Wellness app please get in touch by filling out the contact form here or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.