To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, this blog looks at how UK employers can use a range of methods, including technology, to overcome stigmas and better support staff suffering from mental health conditions.
Employers have a duty of care to look after their employees’ mental wellbeing but too often they don’t know where to start.
Technology can be used to track short and long-term absences and help to identify if someone is suffering from stress, anxiety or depression. If employees are taking regular days off sick or more days off than usual, it could be a sign that something more serious is going on. Absence management software highlights recurring patterns and provides insight for employers, so they can to talk to their staff privately to discuss the causes of sick days.
Open communication about mental health is also essential. Some employees would rather be perceived as being lazy than having a mental health problem, so managers must reassure staff there are no stigmas around mental health. Employers can also promote mental health support services such as Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or counselling and use events and initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness Week to communicate positive messages about mental health.
Here are some tips for improving workplace mental health:
- Talk about stress and mental health to get rid of any stigmas. Engage with stressed employees before they reach the stage where they need to take long term absence.
- Line manager training is vital as they see employees every day and can be trained to spot early signs of stress and depression.
- Take short term absences seriously. If employees are off sick, ensure they complete a return to work form and follow this up with a return to work interview.
- During the return to work interview gently probe the given reason for absence. Do they seem tired or sad? Is there something that ‘feels’ not quite right?
- Ask if the employee needs support and let them know a) that you care and b) remind them of any support provisions within the company benefits package or within Occupational Health.
- Once a mental health issue is identified, consider if flexible working arrangements or special adjustments would help. Could the employee work from home sometimes, or come to work later if, for example, their medication makes them sleepy first thing in the morning?
Awareness about Mental health issues is growing. It is important that employers train staff to recognise the signs, encourage a culture of openness and offer support where it’s needed. Understanding your employees and getting to the root causes of absenteeism is a good place to start and can make a big difference to the outcome for both the business and the employee.