During Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 we take time to consider an employer’s responsibilities with regards to mental health.
Promoting wellbeing and good mental health remains an important issue for every employer. As we slowly emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen real resilience in the workplace, however, it remains critical that employers take the lead on cultivating good mental health and maintaining that resilience.
Mental health issues may be found in every workplace. From concerns such as stress, depression, and anxiety to issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Employers are well placed to support employees who may be suffering from mental health issues. Recent research has concluded that more than one in five (21%) employees agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
It has been well-documented that encouraging a culture of honest conversations is a key aspect of promoting good mental health in the workplace. Employees who are experiencing distress or who are finding it difficult to cope, may feel unable to express their concerns with their employers for a variety of reasons. This could result in time off sick and burnout. Many of these issues can be avoided with early and direct communication which can help the employee manage their current concerns.
A helpful tool is facilitating mental health awareness training. Training can help line mangers identify the signs when an employee is struggling and provide useful guidance on how to better manage these scenarios and aid honest conversations without fear of repercussions for the employee. This may involve developing personalised support for the employee, reducing workload or providing an open forum for discussion.
Additionally, as employers, it is important to lead by example. Employers can model good practices by working sensible hours (where possible), ensuring open two-way communication, resting/ recuperating after busy periods and having regular one-on-one chats and feedback with employees.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 has a particular focus on loneliness and its effects on mental health. Considering this, building collegiality and good relations in the workplace could provide substantial mental health benefits. Work related social events, sports teams, running clubs and internal networking events can create space for friendship, understanding and mutual support. Many of these activities can substantially boost employee morale and general wellbeing in the workplace. Not only could events have a positive effect on employees, they can be tailored to an individual workplace. Developing a well-thought-out wellness action plan/ policy has the potential to transform employee wellbeing, promote a better work -life balance and demonstrate that the business is a good place to work.
Remember too employers have obligations to provide a safe working environment, to promptly and fairly deal with employees’ concerns and avoid discriminatory conduct. An employee should not be treated less favourably if they raise a concern about how the workplace affects their mental health.
Recent studies have shown that 1 in 4 of us will encounter a mental health difficulty every year. Therefore, it is key to the success of any business that discussions surrounding mental health issues are considered sensitively and creatively.
For further information please look at the following links:
While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.