Employee Mental Health in the New Year
Mental health seems to be in the news a lot recently, including how employee mental health can have a detrimental impact on a business. With New Year around the corner and many people taking stock of their lives, it is likely to be an important discussion point in the coming months.
There are a flurry of “solutions” available but it can be confusing for employers and managers to know exactly what your responsibilities are, and how you can best support your employees with the resources available to you. Understanding how mental health may be affecting your employees and any impact on your business needn’t be an onerous or costly operation though.
Practical considerations to improve this area:
- Consider your business practices – do you perhaps reward time worked rather than effectiveness? Are employees encouraged to work out of hours routinely? Social events can be great fun but also stressful for some – do you ask for feedback from more introverted employees when planning events?
- Consider providing your managers with a checklist for identifying employees who may be suffering, and a tool kit for dealing with it in a professional capacity. Alternatively engage a trainer to deliver resilience strategies to all your employees.
- Consider what support is available to employees. Do they all have line managers that they feel comfortable talking with openly? Do employees have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that they can call for confidential support? Many companies have this already included in industry memberships, insurance policies and other existing benefits but aren’t aware, or it can be arranged at a relatively low fee.
If you are unsure of your responsibilities as an employer there is a good summary on this page from the Health and Safety Executive.
There has been a lot of work in 2016 to bring mental health into mainstream discussions and to make it more acceptable to say you are struggling or to ask for help. There is still a long way to go though, so speeding up any developments in your workplace is inevitably going to involve a culture shift. As with all changes this needs a focus.
Employees often need to see a policy commitment or senior members of staff actively “setting an example” before they feel empowered to make changes. It may be about leaving work on time, talking about pressures at work or making use of external support. Disseminating these changes from the managers initially increases the chances of them being adopted by the wider team.
Once Christmas is over and your workforce are back at work – hopefully refreshed and ready to set new goals for 2017 – why not consider how each employee’s personal development will get the focus it needs. This could be in pursuing a project they are passionate about, or mentoring to develop assertiveness or people management skills. Or a more personal goal, such as something linked to work life balance, speaking up in telephone conferences or improving a difficult relationship at work. Although useful in themselves, these goals will also help your employees develop resilience, engagement, and ultimately a better mental health.
Happier employees contribute directly to your business results… but then you knew that already!
All of the steps identified here can be completed by SMEs directly, but if you would like to discuss options for help in reviewing practices, arranging training or offering other support such as EAP to employees, contact us for a chat or take a look at our services page.