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Supporting your staff through poor mental health 

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Are you worried that your employees are experiencing poor mental health? Or are you concerned that a colleague may need some additional support? Here we look at some of the best ways businesses can support their staff that may be suffering from poor mental health.  

Right now 1 in 6 workers are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. This can stop staff performing at their best. It is therefore vitally important that businesses of all sizes know how to spot, deal with and support employees that may be dealing with a mental health problem.

Mental health charity Mind believes that “organisations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused”, and argue that “smart employers support employees who are experiencing mental health problems to cope and recover”. That is why we are taking this opportunity to discuss some of the things we are doing at Sellick Partnership to support our people, and looking how businesses can support their employees through periods of heightened stress and poor mental health.

Offer training and support to managers 

Business leaders cannot be held completely responsible for spotting and helping people suffering from poor mental health at work. At Sellick Partnership we understand that people may not show signs of stress all the time, so we have created a specialised internal guide and are offering assistance to managers across our businesses to allow us to spot and support our people more effectively. Having more eyes on the ground gives us a much better opportunity to spot employees that may be struggling and means we can be there to support when needed.

This guide has information and guidance on spotting signs of poor mental health, how to raise concerns with colleagues that may be struggling, what advice/assistance we can offer and also our sickness policy to ensure our management team know our stance of paid leave for employees that may need some time off to recover.

Create a culture that accepts and supports people suffering from poor mental health 

It is hugely important that employees in your business feel safe and are encouraged to seek help if they feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious at work. All too often employees will hide how they are feeling because they are concerned what people might think, which will only make matters worse in the long-term. Organisations therefore need to ensure that staff know that it is okay to ask for help, and that there is a support network in place to assist employees that need it.

Building a culture like this takes time, but there are a number of things you can be doing to help. Firstly, businesses should regularly promote policies and benefits that support staff that may be suffering from poor mental health. For example, at Sellick Partnership we offer each of our employees access to Medicash, which has a dedicated consultation service that staff can ring to get advice and help. We also arm our managers with additional resources that they can pass onto team members as and when they deem it to be appropriate.    

You can also build this culture by being honest, and having conversations across the business. Mental health should not be stigmatised and if you have honest and open conversations with your workforce about it, they are more likely to be open with you if and when they may need some additional support.

What is important here is that as a business you are ready to support employees that may be suffering from poor mental health and are able to offer advice or give employees access to support when they need it.

Encourage your staff to take time away from the desk

Supporting employees through mental health problems is not all about counselling or time off work. There are also some small things you can do to help staff de-stress and feel more at ease in the office, and one of those is encouraging staff to get outside. There are various studies that support the fact that sitting down too much, and spending too much time working greatly impacts a person’s health, both physically and mentally. In order to try and counteract this we have recently begun trialling walking meetings across our offices.

A walking meeting is simply that; a meeting that occurs whilst you are walking rather than sat in an office or meeting room. These meetings can be taken outside of the office on a walk, or somewhere for a change of scenery. Not only does this get people away from the desk, it also helps get staff active, which is a great way of relieving stress and supporting employees that may be suffering from poor mental health.

Make adjustments and work with staff that may be suffering from poor mental health

As an employer/manager it will be your responsibility to make adjustments for any employees that may be suffering from poor mental health. Adjustments for mental health are generally simple, practical and cost-effective. For example, you may need to make some alterations to how people perform their role i.e. reducing working hours, changing working times or changing a workspace (moving a colleague to a quieter area of the office perhaps). Other adjustments may involve offering additional support in the way of regular meetings to discuss workload, offering more feedback or creating a safe, quiet space in the office that employees can escape to if they need some time alone.

These adjustments will be totally dependent on the situation you are dealing with, so you need to ensure that you are speaking to and working with those that may be affected. A one-size-fits-all approach simply will not work. Instead, each set of adjustments should be tailored to the individual and these need to be regularly reviewed to ensure they are working and no additional support/adjustments are needed as the member of staff recovers.

Manage an employee’s time off and return to work sympathetically and in-line with company policy

It is vital that any time off a member of staff takes as a result of poor mental health is managed correctly. This can often be a very stressful time for employees, and if this is not managed sympathetically you are at risk of damaging your reputation, culture and losing staff. The most important aspect of this process is making sure that the member of staff in question does not feel pressured at any time. People suffering from poor mental health may be in recovery for some time, so managers should keep in touch with them regularly without pressuring them to get back to work. When a team member is ready to return to work, it is important to ensure that they feel supported and understand what will be expected of them when they come back.

You should consider meeting them away from the workplace before they return to discuss their return and alleviate any concerns they may have. When they are ready to return, a phased return to work is advisable to ensure that they are mentally and physically ready. Businesses should then monitor a team member's return to work and be mindful that mental health can fluctuate. If they seem to experience further ill health, it is important to intervene as early as possible.

What next?

If you are suffering from poor mental health, or know someone that is and would like advice, please contact Mind, or you can check out more blogs on supporting your staff in our Employer Resources section.

Alternatively, if you would like more information on what we are doing to support our people, or some advice on adopting some of our policies, please feel free to contact our marketing team by emailing marketing@sellickpartnership.co.uk.