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Workplace Mental Health: What Employers Need To Know

Jul 23, 2020
Workplace Mental Health: What Employers Need To Know

A study by the Department of Health found that poor mental health at work costs the UK economy £105.2 billion every year. This factors in things such as lost productivity, costs of services and reduced quality of life. For any company looking to improve productivity and reduce costs, it makes for stark reading. The question is, what can be done about it?

While the costs are secondary to the human impact of poor mental health on that person’s wider family and friends. As an employer, these stats cannot be ignored. Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is not merely an ethical or topical concern for management anymore. With mental health issues increasing especially for the Millennial generation we all have a responsibility to take action. 

As an executive coach with over 25 years of experience, this what employers need to know about mental health. 

Wellbeing In The Workplace 

Employee wellbeing can have a profound effect on performance, productivity and overall team wellbeing. From retention to turnover and the number of sick days your team experiences. As a leader, your way of behaviour and managing your employees can have a direct impact on their overall health and mental welfare.

Far from being an issue to ignore, mental health needs to be addressed. Your employees are after all humans with thoughts, feelings and emotions. These days the work/life balance has come under increasing strain. We are all wired to emails and notifications long after leaving the office. Employees are suffering from burnout faster than ever before. That’s why it’s time to recognise the human element and act now. 

How To Recognise If Your Employees Are Struggling

Sometimes the manager can be the last to realise or address that there is a problem. It can go silent in the knowledge of a team for weeks before it’s raised or seen. Just because you don’t see it as a manager it doesn’t mean others don’t or won’t. This in itself can be stressful for other team members. Flagging someone is having an issue is hard, you don’t want to betray a trust. Nor do you always want to get involved. Having a good relationship with your employees is the key  know when someone is having some challenges.

Plus, the individual involved might feel embarrassed or feel weak. They could also be concerned about a breach of confidentiality  being brought back up by you at review time. All of these play into a hidden malaise of suffering. Which can get worse, not better, for everyone if not addressed. The most important thing to remember is that we can all be impacted by mental health challenges. Life is a cycle of ups and downs, no one is impervious to that.

Recognising Depressive Indicators

Prolonged stress or challenging events can lead to depression which is often firstly fronted by sadness. Sadness doesn’t always manifest into depression but if it’s not treated or managed it can escalate. Noticing an employee is behaving differently or ‘not themselves’ is the first flag, here are some more indicators to look out for:

  • Finding it difficult to speak or think clearly.

  • Difficulty in remembering, being forgetful or lack of attention to detail.
  • Not making decisions or procrastinating.

  • Avoiding social events or a team get together. Acting alone were before they have been inclusive.

  • Unusually emotional (tears, frustration or anger).

  • Showing an unusual lack of confidence or ability in themselves.

Talking About Mental Health

If you see any of these indicators the first step is to have a conversation to check-in. To see how they are, what you have noticed and that you are concerned. Ask them if they’d like to talk about it. You cannot force or make assumptions at this point. Some questions you might ask include:

  • I’ve noticed you don’t seem yourself, is everything okay?

  • I want you to know that you can chat with me about anything that is bothering you. It’s important to me that you are happy here and I know things can sometimes get in the way for us.

  • I’ve noticed that unusually for you, you have missed some things (get just one or two examples). I wanted to check in to see if everything is okay? or you need some help or support from me or the team?

Look Within First And Lead By Example

As a manager making sure you are mentally healthy is also important not just for yourself but your team. People who work for you notice everything. What kind of mood you are in, how you react to a situation or a person, your stress will rub off on them and the team. How you speak to them and behave will also have an impact good and bad depending on what you are presenting at the time. Here are some things that might help you:

  • Make time for yourself to think and be disciplined about ‘being busy and rushing from one thing to another’. YES, you can control this no one is going to come and take work off you so it’s down to you to manage it.

  • Be firm in prioritising what is urgent and important, to what is important but not urgent. Don’t put everything in the funnel at the same time.

  • If you are having a bad day or you are struggling to be in a positive mood give yourself a time limit for it. Acknowledge that you are annoyed or whatever the feeling is. As it allows it more easily to pass through you and not get stuck, then give yourself a 30-60 minute window to get it out of your system and move on!     

  • Make time to eat properly and get outside for either a walk or exercise in and outside of the workday. Even top Olympians need rest to perform well. Exercise increases good feeling endorphins.

  • Make sure you are delegating and not controlling everything. This will reduce stress as well as make you more promotable!

Enlist Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Smart managers ask the right questions of the right people that will put them in the best possible position to handle or deal with a difficult situation. Check with your manager or HR who can either give you tips or direct you to more information that can help you. 

Human beings aren’t always predictable or easy to manage. Even when you are trying to help them, you can only do so much and ultimately it is down to the choice of the individual how much they share and how much they want/need your help. All you can do is create an open door environment, address issues swiftly, be empathetic, alert and ask the right questions. 

If the issue goes beyond your capabilities or comfort zone. Do not be afraid to direct the employee to outside organisations that might be able to help them.

Find Out More

I hope the above advice has shed some light on what to look out for when it comes to addressing mental health at work. Ultimately, mental health affects every single one of us because we are all human. We all have our different challenges and coping strategies. What’s needed from employers is to make the effort to recognise and support employees wherever possible. Not only will this improve employee wellbeing. Also it will be reflected in your company performance and turnover figures too. 

For additional help, I am currently offering virtual executive coaching sessions. I help my clients with a range of issues, including how to reach their potential within their leadership. Bringing 25 years of experience to the table, I can help you develop the right tools and strategies to do. If you are interested in trying a session or have any questions, please get in touch

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