Last year on average 12 million working days were lost due to employees suffering work-related mental health conditions.
Statistics showed that conditions such as depression and anxiety as well as work-related stresses amounted to an average of 21.2 days lost per person.
Yet despite these and other ongoing statistics, mental health still remains a stigmatised subject in the workplace.
Many employees are too worried about risking their jobs or experiencing prejudice or judgement to express their concerns to management, and thus management is often unaware of growing problems.
However, organisations are now being encouraged to transition into healthy workplace environments. Alongside undertaking mental health workplace training, another way of succeeding in this transition is by correctly assessing, safeguarding and managing potential mental health problems should they arise.
Here’s a quick summarised checklist to get you and your workplace started:
Firstly, develop an organisational framework
Based on the Thriving At Work review by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, The Mental Health at Work Commitment is a blueprint that organisations can implement to achieve better mental health outcomes for employees.
Organisations using the framework must aim to:
- Communicate, develop and implement a comprehensive mental health at work plan
- Educate employees on mental health awareness
- Promote and encourage an open culture around mental health by instigating conversations about mental health and support channels available
- Ensure healthy work life balances, opportunities for development and good working conditions
- Encourage effective people management by educating both line managers and supervisors
- Regularly monitor and assess employees mental wellbeing
- Provide access to mental health support channels and tools
Secondly, manage the six main stress inducing areas of work:
Six main areas of work have been identified as affecting stress levels. Businesses should aim to manage these correctly by regularly assessing:
- Demands: Employee workloads and working environments. Environments should have adequate space, light and cleanliness. Workloads should be manageable and not unachievable.
- Control: How much input employees have over their jobs and any organisational changes or processes. Include employee opinions to promote feelings of value
- Support: Ensure adequate levels of supervision and resources are available so staff can correctly perform their duties and roles
- Relationships: Prevent conflict and office gossip by encouraging positive working and team building activities
- Role: Ensuring employees understand their roles and their places within the business.
- Change: Communicating and managing organisational change by keeping employees well informed with opportunities to air their views
Thirdly, prevent workplace stress by:
Businesses can reduce stress in their workplaces and subsequently transition to healthy workplaces by:
- Carrying out regular stress risk assessments, and subsequently allocating resources that reduce and/or eliminate the sources of the discovered stress
- Allocating employees adequate training resources and support to help them perform their jobs effectively
- Increasing support and opening communication for employees during periods of change and uncertainty.
- Introducing stress management training alongside resources such as relaxation techniques
- Introducing regular activities that promote healthy behaviour and exercise, like lunchtime walks, discounted gym memberships and healthy dietary canteen options
- Implementing flexible working options like flexi-hours and WFH days for an improved work/life balance.
- Directing employees to available help and resources such as counselling schemes
- Undertaking mental health awareness training so that employees can identify potential issues before they escalate
- Ensuring good quality working conditions, including access to natural air and light. In the event of this not being possible, add greenery to the working environment and allocate breaks to be taken outside of the premises for access to fresh air.
- Audit policies, procedures and systems to ensure the company is providing an environment that protects the wellbeing of the workforce.
Finally, invest in:
- Developing managers people management skills to ensure they have the confidence and education to have sensitive conversations with staff.
- Nurturing a supportive, open work culture that encourages staff to look out for one another by discussing and seeking support when experiencing mental ill-health.
- Mental Health First Aider training to ensure line managers have the correct knowledge and resources at their disposal to be points of safety for those experiencing mental ill-health
- Sources of support, such as employee assistance programmes, counselling services and charities.
- Line managers: Encourage team building exercises within teams to promote healthy working habits and healthy working environments
- Monthly discussions to review duties, responsibilities and workloads and air any concerns
- Discouraging ‘presenteeism’ in your team. Create a safe, open environment that means employees do not have to hide how they are feeling.
- Tools that assist with managing the mental health of your staff while in periods of remote working.