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Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace

70 million workdays are lost each year to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers an estimated £2.4 billion annually [1]. Mental health problems can interfere with employees’ well-being and their job performance. Mental Health problems include anxiety, depression and stress. Employees struggling with their mental health may experience difficulty concentrating, communicating and can be easily irritable.

Everyone has mental health; which fluctuates on a spectrum from good to poor. It is influenced by a variety of factors both in and outside work. Statistics show that 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem.[2] Employers have a legal duty to take care of the safety of their employees and this includes mental health.[3] Only 53% of employees feel comfortable talking about mental health issues.[4]

Presenteeism occurs when employees attend work when they are not mentally or physically fit to perform their duties. 22% of employees reported that they worked whilst feeling mentally unwell.[5] Working when in poor mental health can result in bad decision making, poor judgement, lack of motivation and increase the employee’s stress levels.[6] 4 out of 10 people have considered or have left a job due to stress (The Guardian Jobs – 17 June 2016). More than 50% of employees said that workplace stress has interfered with their personal life.

Developing Mental Health support in the workplace can save businesses in the UK up to £8 million per year, by helping employees develop healthy coping mechanisms.[7] The support people receive from their employer is key in determining how well and how quickly they are able to get back to peak performance.

Here are some initiatives that Employers can implement to support Mental Health in the workplace.

  • Provide Employees with Counselling

Providing all employees with access to free and confidential workplace counselling. If an employee’s work is suffering for personal reasons or their personal life is suffering due to work, the employee may benefit from counselling to help manage the problems being faced. Workplace Counselling interventions have resulted in a 50% reduction in absence rates in some organisations.[8] Individuals need to be able to discuss their psychological health with an expert in a safe space, providing employees with a counsellor will allow them to have a secure space to express themselves.

  • Provide access to an Employee Assistance Programme

The employer can provide their staff with an internal, independent counselling service as part of an employee assistance programme. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a work-based program that typically include confidential assessments, short-term counselling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. EAP is a confidential workplace service that employers pay for. An EAP can help employees deal with work-life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems, and addiction issues. An EAP helps employers because it can make for happier employees.  

  • Mental Health First Aiders

A Mental Health First Aider in the workplace is the go-to person for anyone who is going through some form of mental health issue. The first aider will be present to help guide the person in distress to the relevant help that they need. Mental health first aiders are not qualified to provide therapy, they are there to support and help an individual make their work life easier. First aiders have the relevant knowledge to be able to spot someone who is developing a mental health issue. They will be equipped with the knowledge to intervene before it escalates.

  • Occupational Health

Mental health issues should be as much of a priority as physical health. Occupational health is a speciality that considers very specifically the effects of work on health. It also considers an individual’s health, ability and fitness to perform a particular job. Its purpose is to protect each employee to ensure that the proposed work does not in any way damage or compromise their health. Learning about physical health can help with employee well-being. Wellbeing consists of both physical and psychological health; organisations should promote an overall healthy lifestyle. Occupational health takes a proactive stance on physical health with preventative screening. It is important that symptoms are clearly classified as to whether they pertain to physical or mental health. Both elements of health can affect a person at the same time, it is imperative that they are both assessed and addressed.

  • Mindfulness-based Program

Mindfulness is a practice which involves focusing on one’s awareness of the present moment, by accepting thoughts and feelings without judging them. Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique aimed at achieving a calm mental state. At an individual level, mindfulness helps build resilience and a healthy method of regulating emotions. The development of mindfulness is a scientifically proven form of meditation which improves cognitive functions which are essential for performing multiple job activities.[9] At an organisational level, this practice helps improve communication, assessment, decision-making and builds cooperation. Mindfulness based programmes have been found to result in a significant improvement in the mental health of employees two years after the initial intervention (Antanaitis 2015).

The initiatives outlined above can help address mental health in the workplace and improve employees’ work-life balance. Supporting your staff will increase their motivation, productivity, engagement and trust within the organisation.

If you would like further guidance or support on employee well-being or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

©️ Copyright Clover HR

[1] Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health in the Workplace, 2019, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/mental-health-workplace.

[2]Mind, How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem, 2019.

[3]Ni Direct, Counselling at Work, 2019.

[4]Helen Smith, What must employers do to support Mental Health, HRD Online, 22/03/2018.

[5]Rob Moss, Mental health presenteeism on the rise, Personnel Today, 10/10/2018.   

[6]Arunas Antanaitis, Mindfulness in the Workplace Benefits and strategies to integrate mindfulness-based programs in the workplace, Focus, 2018.

[7] Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Statistics: mental health at work, 2019, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-mental-health-work.

[8] Chrysalis, The Benefits of Workplace Counselling, 2018. 

[9] David Karlin, Mindfulness in the Workplace, Strategic HR Review, 2018.

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