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7 steps to improve your employees mental health

Mental health is one of the key topics in the workplace at the moment, and reading the following statistics you can see why:
  • Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
  • 1 in 6 of the UK workforce suffer from anxiety, depression or similar mental health conditions every year.
  • Women who work full time are almost twice as likely to have a common mental health condition as men who work full time.
  • Evidence suggest that around 13% of all UK sick days are due to mental health conditions
It is important that as business owners we put things in place to look out for our staff, and ourselves, to help improve mental health issues before it gets critical. Aside from being the right thing to do, better mental health support at work can save UK businesses £8billion every year. With improved mental health comes higher productivity, less absence and a more positive working environment – along with improved staff retention. 
  • Mental ill-health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year
  • 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason

To put this into a working example, promoting wellbeing at work through personalised information and advice, a risk-assessment questionnaire, seminars, workshops and web-based materials will cost approximately £80 per employee per year. For a company with 500 employees, where all employees use the intervention, it’s estimated that an initial investment of £40,000 will result in a net return of £347,722 in savings, mainly due to reduced presenteeism (lost productivity that occurs due to an employee working while ill) and absenteeism (missing work due to ill health).

Look after yourself first

As a business owner it is your responsibility to offer support to your employees, but this is made harder if you don’t look after yourself first. The stresses and strains of running a business can easily take a toll, and can come on slowly without you realising. Take a step back and consider your feelings, and see if there are any improvements you should make to your wellbeing.

Look after your employees

There’s a lot of negative reaction to mental illness. Some are unsure or sceptical of it, some discriminate against people with mental health conditions (often without realising), and many are embarrassed or ashamed of their feelings. We do have a tendency to keep the British stiff upper lip firmly in place.

So, a really positive approach you can take is to encourage open conversations. Let staff know you will hear them and support them during difficult times.

Here are seven practical tips for improving mental health in the workplace:

  1. Raise your staff’s understanding of mental health problems and mental health stigma in the workplace through events, activities, internal campaigns or literature.
  2. Plan ways your staff can consider their own mental health at work, what supports them, and what would help them. This could be through regular wellness assessments or action plans.
  3. Make sure staff see and understand that your management teams are dedicated to improving mental health and the support available, and that staff know they can be honest and open when discussing it.
  4. Normalise stories of mental health in your workplace by holding wellbeing events, or running an internal blog/newsletter discuss the topic. Include personal stories from your employees (with their consent of course) which will encourage others to speak up too. The more it is discussed, the less stigma and discrimination will surround those needing support. 
  5. Put in place specific policies and support for staff, and a plan for reviewing and updating these. This could be a helpline, support resources on your intranet, employee assistance programmes, HR support, policies for absence etc. Be sure to actively consider and support persons from diverse backgrounds – including people of colour, people with disabilities, LGBTQ++ people and more. Consider including staff who are living with mental health conditions in your planning of these.
  6. Provide specific training to your managers, team leaders etc. on dealing with mental health. They need to be able to have effective conversations and solutions with their team, and be aware of warning signs. This should also include how to start and encourage conversations about mental health with their team.
  7. Consider employing or appointing a person to have overall responsibility for implementing, evaluating and reviewing your new plan. It can require a dedicated person to monitor the processes, survey staff and performance, and monitor absences in relation to stress and mental health.  

Taking these steps can be hard, and can often feel like a cost rather than an investment. However, you should usually see improvements in productivity and attendance within a year, which will give you demonstratable monetary return. With understanding and support for mental health in the workplace still growing at a speedy pace, and workplace transparency at an all-time high, don’t be left behind in 2020 by not being inclusive and open.

To find out more about how your business can cater for and support mental health in the workplace, visit the biggest business event in the North of England on 17th & 18th March 2020. Its free, and is at Manchester Central. You’ll find seminars, skills workshops, suppliers, keynotes, networking and much more for free at the Northern Business Expo. Get your free ticket today! 

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