World Mental Health Day – what positive change will you make?
This week marked World Mental Health Day 2017, an event that encourages us to think about mental health, how we can improve it and how we can best support those who are struggling with their mental health. The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is mental health in the workplace, something that is an important issue for the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (UK EAPA) and our members.
According to research by the Mental Health Foundation, Oxford Economics and Unum, one in six of the UK workforce experienced mental health issues in 2015 and there is a consensus that there is a growing awareness of the importance of good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
But in light of World Mental Health Day, it is important to ask ourselves what positive steps are we taking now and what strategies do we have planned to ensure that our workplaces are environments that support, nurture and encourage good mental health and wellbeing, says Neil Mountford, chair of the UK EAPA.
Work is good for our mental health and a core role of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is to help employees who are affected by mental health issues to remain in work, whilst at the same time helping them to address and resolve their issues.
Nearly nine out of ten (86%) respondents to the Mental Health Foundation’s recent survey confirmed that they believe their job and being at work was important to protect and maintain their mental health. In fact, people who had been diagnosed with a mental health problem in the last five years were more likely than those who had not to regard their job as very important to their mental health (49% compared with 43%).
So what steps can you take as an employer and a line manager to create a culture of positive mental health in your workplace? Here are a few suggestions.
- Learn to recognise the signs and symptoms of potential mental health issues
These might be an increase in unexplained absences or an employee calling in sick more frequently, a change in their personality – maybe they’re withdrawn or particularly snappy – or there may be a change in their performance or typical work-rate. You as a manager are best placed to know what is ‘usual behaviour’ for your employees so use this as a benchmark to assess whether you think there is an issue you may be able to help with.
- Accept that disclosing mental health problems isn’t an option for everyone
Not everyone will want to disclose that they are struggling with their mental health, either because it’s not something they’re ready to address yet or they might be concerned about how they will be treated within the company in the future if they say that they are struggling. This is where a service such as the EAP can really help; openly communicating that this confidential, accessible and professional service is available to employees and that there is no link back to the workplace, is important to positively influence employees’ mental health and their desire to seek help.
- Appreciate the factors that you can control
As an employer you’re not in a position to control all elements of an employee’s life, influencing what happens out of the workplace, for example. But there are a number of things you can change or introduce to have a positive influence on employees’ mental health. These include an individual’s workload, the type of work they’re being asked to do, the culture of the organisation and also ensuring that open and two-way communications take place wherever possible. Sometimes a temporary adjustment of work-load can make a big difference, so if you know or suspect that an employee is struggling and that the issues they’re experiencing are affecting their mental health, take a moment to see what positive changes you can make.
- Actively promote health and wellbeing in your workplace
This might mean that you as a manager are proactive and set a good example of achieving a positive work / life balance or encourage employees to take regular breaks from their work throughout the day. Alongside this, you might raise employees’ awareness of services, such as the EAP, that are on hand to provide support and information, as well as counselling in some cases, for individuals who are struggling with any issue that is affecting their performance at work.
To find out more about the Mental Health Foundation’s research and their guide to how you can support mental health at work, click here.