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How businesses can build the best preventative mental health measures in the workplace

Written by Liz Walker on Wednesday, 29 August 2018. Posted in Wellbeing, People

It’s hardly a secret many people struggle with mental health issues. Luckily, employers can do their part to help

How businesses can build the best preventative mental health measures in the workplace

According to a 2017 Business in the Community report, only 13% of employees disclosed a mental health issue to an employer. Many may feel unable to open up, worrying about confidentiality or being treated differently by their teams.

Fortunately, there are ways for companies to encourage employees to recognise the signs of mental distress and have the confidence to access the right support from their employer as early as possible.

Form the foundations

Nearly one-third of workers do not feel their workplace is supportive of mental health, according to research from CV-Library, the job site. As people spend so much time at work, companies can play a key role here in establishing the necessary assistance needed to boost employee welfare.

Letting staff know there are structures in place – like well-being resources or an employee assistance programme – helps normalise the topic of mental health and reduces stigma.

You want everyone to feel they can contribute to the conversation about mental health without being judged and that involvement with this issue is a positive part of employee development.

However, when it comes to mental health education, concerns about mental illness can be very personal and employers need to take a sensitive approach for employees to feel they can open up.

Remember, a workshop environment might not have the anticipated effect or participation if there is not a high level of discretion.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Without the right assistance, any problem can escalate to the extent someone no longer feels able to continue with their personal and professional routine. This is where managers can play a crucial role for organisations that want to encourage strong performance and on-the-ground employee support.

Training managers with the skills needed to spot early signs of mental ill-health are imperative. However, Unum research has revealed only 10% of line managers feel they have received sufficient mental health training.

Training should teach managers to spot triggers along with reactive measures so they feel confident in supporting their staff.

Some may benefit from being sent away on a one or two-day course, but many others will get significant benefit from a lunchtime or breakfast session. Offering short and frequent training opportunities ensures maximum attendance.

Suggest managers introduce a well-being objective in their team members’ personal development plans. It brings the conversation round to more than just functional objectives and means you can take the time to have a conversation about personal things too.

Start from the bottom up

Many workplace wellbeing programmes provide regular mental health support and training, which should help employees think about their own wellbeing, as well as being able to spot signs of ill health in others.

Encourage the departments responsible for running these programmes to run company-wide presentations highlighting these options to staff and their availability.

Bringing in expert speakers can also get your employees thinking about their lifestyle choices in and outside of work, equipping them with the knowledge to improve their own health and wellbeing.

A recent study by Westfield Health found 83% of staff experienced a sleep issue in the previous month, so introducing 30-minute training sessions from a sleep expert containing advice on how to improve sleep patterns and combat factors affecting good sleep could be highly beneficial to your business.

Continuing the support

Stress, a change in circumstances, disruption to sleep or family-related issues, are just a few things that could affect you and your employee’s mental health on any given day. That is why it’s important to think about mental health as a continuum as it can affect anyone at any time.

Being proactive and reactive to an individual’s mental health is only half the battle. Maintaining momentum means you can continuously support people with mental health struggles, at any time.

Setting up a peer support network, analysing data from wellbeing services and regular management training are all ways companies can keep up with the changing needs of their workforce and consistently improve overall wellbeing.

About the Author

Liz Walker

Liz Walker

In her time at Unum UK, the employee benefits provider, Liz Walker has spearheaded work to remove the stigma of mental health in the workplace and actively works to help raise awareness of mental health as an asset and an integral part of a holistic health and wellbeing strategy.

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