Supporting Mental Wellbeing at Work
Last week’s World Mental Health Day focussed on the workplace and once again raised the importance of equipping employers to be able to support staff experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. New research by the Centre for Mental Health estimates the cost of mental ill health to employers is now a staggering £34.9bn per year – that’s £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy. Just two weeks ago, I was delivering training to an organisation whose workforce had been hit hard by the suicide of two members of staff within days of each other.
Every day thousands of employers are dealing with situations which, aside from impacting on the business itself, often result not only in distress, but also a sense of inadequacy how to respond to what’s happening.
Held on 10th October every year, World Mental Health Day is one of several occasions which can help focus our thoughts on this important area. Similarly, National Stress Awareness Day (1st November 2017) and Time to Talk Day (1st February 2018) will be helpful events. But they have to be occasions where action is stimulated for the long term, not just 24 hours – and, of course, that does happen.
One such way is the sharing of good practice – of letting other people know what works. For example, MINDFUL EMPLOYER Charter signatory, Gateshead College recently had a new member of staff start and while initially they didn't declare their mental illness, it was highlighted during their standard pre-employment health check. The employee suffered from anxiety, particularly when faced with new, unknown situations. This was triggered when they started with the College. Following a supportive meeting with their Line Manager and an appointment with the Occupational Health nurse, a number of strategies were implemented to support the employee, including the allocation of a mentor, regular check ins with their Line Manager and for a temporary period, reduced working hours. The employee is now happily engaged at work and no further concerns have been identified.
And Bootle-based signatory, Sovini Group provide a range of initiatives to support the mental wellbeing of their staff – maybe there’s some ideas for employers you are in contact with:
- Employee Assistance Programme available to all staff and their families which includes counselling (face to face / telephone etc).
- Occupational Health Advisor on site once a fortnight. Employees are able to self-refer if required.
- Feel Good Programme e.g. Mental Health Awareness week (massages, Yoga, Mental Health charity talk, laughology), Sovini Games (week-long series of team building events).
- Meditation sessions every fortnight during lunch hour. • Mindfulness programme (for Executive Management Team).
- Excellent office environment including a gym, bistro, quiet room.
- Work/Life Balance Charter encouraging all staff to develop a healthy and productive work/life balance, which includes encouraging not sending emails outside of work hours.
- 5 ways to well-being.
- Reward and Recognition schemes – e.g. Show Some Love (anonymous compliments on Valentine’s Day), Employee of the Month, Customer compliments, Birthday cards, staff socials.
Often very practical, inexpensive and simple things can make the difference. Amidst the hustle and bustle of busyness, the benefits and trials of emails and IT, the targets and the demands, we forget to take lunch breaks, to give ourselves and other people time. Keeping in touch with people when they are off sick, sending a card and flowers, letting people know they are not forgotten.
As I wrote in my article for IEP in May 2017, the importance of equipping line managers is particularly crucial. A line manager’s job is to manage not be a counsellor or a therapist and many find it difficult to help a member of staff who is experiencing mental health issues – especially when it comes to having the conversation. There is after all no reason at all why a manager should automatically know what to do. Staff having monthly 1:1 time with their line manager is crucial – not just to talk about work but to have those ‘how are you’ conversations to build up trust and relationships – so if it ever comes to talking about something really difficult (like mental ill health) then both employee and manager feel more confident and secure and able to respond.
Richard Frost, Lead, MINDFUL EMPLOYER
Tel: 01392 677064