Oct 9th 2019

Mental Health: how can employers support employees?

Employers must recognise the role they play in their employees lives. Most of us spend a large majority of our time at work and employers are under a general obligation to take ‘reasonable care for the health and safety of employees in the workplace’. This means they have a duty towards employees suffering from mental health issues. Not only is it an employer’s responsibility to care for the mental wellbeing of their staff, but it is also in the best interests of the company. Organisations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and engaged. Employers must actively work on creating a safe space where employees can open up about the challenges they face.

To start with, employers need to make a concerted effort to understand how widespread and misunderstood mental health issues are. The large stigma which still surrounds mental health leads many to suffer in silence; according to Priory Group research, fewer than three in ten employees would tell their employers about their mental health condition for fear of getting a negative response. By educating employees around mental health and trying to debunk the stigma is a great starting point in creating a more understanding and inclusive culture.

Educate employees around mental health

Employees can undergo basic training to develop a better understanding of mental health. Not only will this help to educate employees on mental health and reduce the stigma around it, but will also help show those suffering  how to better cope with any mental health problems they’re experiencing.

Chasing the Stigma, a charity committed to removing the fear of talking about mental health run a training course called ‘The Ambassadors of Hope’. This programme is designed to educate workforces on mental health and equip employees to recognise whether co-workers are suffering from mental health problems. Encouraging discussions around the matter will help those suffering feel like they can open up about any challenges they’re facing.

Help employees recognise if co-workers are suffering and how they can help

Training employees to recognise if their co-workers are experiencing mental health problems is a good way to create an inclusive environment where those suffering feel they’ll be supported. Jake Mills, founder of Chasing the Stigma says, ‘make sure staff are trained to respond to colleagues who are suffering from mental health problems. This would include having points of contact who are known within the workplace as the “go to” people to discuss such issues with.’

Chasing the Stigma’s training course includes training staff to not only recognise those suffering but also how to have effective, confident conversations with them. Those who undergo the training become ‘Ambassadors of Hope’ and will be equipped with the tools to support fellow colleagues who are suffering. In turn, this signals to those experiencing mental health problems that there are people in the office for them to talk to, encouraging them to share their challenges and get the help they need.

Reduce stressful working conditions 

Jake mentions another way employers can create a supportive environment is by ‘reducing workplace stress and excessive workload’. Stress can be a trigger for those suffering from mental health problems and can be managed in several ways.

Line managers can undergo training to ensure they can recognise if their team are experiencing problems due to unmanageable levels of work or stress. They can also encourage their team to take breaks throughout the day or prioritise work so some can ‘wait till tomorrow’ in order to reduce the levels of stress within the team.

In a survey carried out by FlexJobs, 90% of respondents said a flexible job would decrease their stress levels. The control that comes with flexibility can improve employees mental health, enabling employees to create a routine conducive with managing their mental health and building more balanced lives.

Takeaways

There are several ways an employer can create an inclusive environment where employees suffering from mental health feel supported and able to share their problems with co-workers and employers alike. Not only is this a responsibility of employers but it will create a more engaged and productive workforce.

Collaborating with mental health charities and organisations are an effective way to send a signal to employees their mental health matters as well as a clear message about your organisation’s values. An organisation that invests in their employees mental health will not only prove themselves as having integrity but will also be an organisation that people will want to work for and therefore a more motivated team.

Read about how Tempo works with Sanctus to create a more inclusive culture here.