7 steps to effective mental health management
Ignoring the mental health needs of everyone in your workforce comes at a high cost to organisations in lost productivity, low engagement, increased staff turnover and high levels of absence.
Far from being 'nice to have', policies, tools and procedures which addresses mental health and wellbeing are essential for all organisations to adopt in good and bad times. There are other steps employers can take to ensure mental health problems at work are understood and managed:
Ensure the workplace culture positively addresses mental wellbeing and encourages disclosure
The message that mental health is something that affects every one of us just as physical health does, should come from the top of the organisation. Leaders must encourage employees to honestly report absence which is the result of mental illness and encourage line managers to address any stigmas associated with it. Awareness and communication strategies can help organisations de-stigmatise the issue.
Create or update a wellbeing policy that includes mental, as well as, physical health
Physical health should be treated no differently from mental health in any company wellbeing policy. This applies to reporting absence, returning to work, or making adjustments to individuals' working lives. Look at encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting work-life balance, while recognising that influences on mental health are not confined to the workplace or the home environment.
Make workplace adjustments that will support mental wellbeing
This may mean enabling more flexible hours or locations of work for the entire workforce or making specific adjustments to the roles of particular individuals with mental health problems. It is also vital for employers to consider the impact of particular events - changes within the business' operating environment, for example - on employees' mental wellbeing and make preparations to address this in advance of any announcements.
Provide employee assistance programmes as gateways for further help for mental health issues
As a cost-effective way to help employees with problems including mental ill health, Employee assistance programmes, should form part of any benefits package. The anonymity offered by an Employee assistance programme can enable employees to speak confidentially about their mental health issues, and act as a gateway into further help for mental health issues, such as through access to counselling sessions. The flexibility is here for employers to offer different healthcare packages which include help for mental health or point employees in the right direction to access it themselves.
Support staff returning to work after mental-health related absence
Just as employers must support employees who have been on long-term sickness absence due to physical ill-health, they must acknowledge the extra help employees returning to work after recovering from mental illness will need. Employers must stay in some form of contact with absentees, understand the symptoms they may have experienced, sensitively address any workplace-related adjustments that might need to be made and recognise the possibility of triggers that could cause relapses.
Train line managers
Line managers can mean the difference between a mentally ill employee leaving the organisation and making a full recovery and returning to high levels of productivity and engagement at work. But too often managers don't recognise the signs of poor mental health and don't know how to deal with it sensitively when it emerges. Coaching and training is vital in demonstrating how to manage mental ill-health and watching out for its indicators. It will also signal to managers and employees that the organisation takes mental wellbeing seriously.
Sign up to the Workplace Wellbeing Charter
More than 1,000 organisations now hold the Workplace Wellbeing Charter, described as 'the business standard for health, safety and wellbeing across England'. The Charter, which was launched by Public Health England, an agency of the Department of Health, audits organisations on what health and wellbeing measures it has in place and where the gaps are.
The causes of poor mental health are complicated and the cost of ignoring them is great. But not addressing the reality of mental health is no longer an option and employers and HR professionals can take some relatively simple steps to address it.
Find out how you can tackle mental health problems in the workplace by downloading our new white paper 'Addressing mental health issues in the workplace'