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Good mental health in the workplace

Tuesday 6th May

In the UK, one in six workers is dealing with a mental health problem. This is estimated to cost employers up to £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence. Yet there is still an unwillingness to discuss mental health, and some companies are not adapting to help their staff.

As a manager or employer, there are things you can do to make sure your business is prepared and that you are giving your staff proper support.

1. Create an open culture

Even if no one in your team has a problem now, if they know that they can speak openly about their mental health they will feel more secure. This could minimise future impact on the business. Make sure staff understand that mental health problems will be treated the same way as physical health ones. Highlight what support is available - with in-house HR teams, company healthcare support or other options - and reassure your employees that anything they disclose will be treated seriously and confidentially.

2. Discussing mental health

If you need to speak to a member of your team about their mental health, it’s important to make sure that you do it in the most appropriate way. Pick a quiet, private place where the employee feels comfortable and equal. Before you start, reassure them of confidentiality, and encourage them to talk. Listen to what they have to say; assumptions about what they are going through could lead to inappropriate action that doesn’t help. It’s important to have a positive outcome so make an action plan, and encourage the person to get support. If your company offers any help for mental health issues, make sure they know what it is and how to access it.

3. Supporting staff in work

Making changes to support a person with mental health problems can help them recover more quickly. Ideally these changes come out of a discussion with the person, focusing on what they can do rather than what they can’t. Find out what will help them feel more able to cope - it could be having extra one-to-one meetings, extra training, flexible hours, a change of workspace or break times. It may also be helpful to receive some specific training and information about supporting your staff.

4. Supporting staff on sick leave

Treat a team member with a mental illness in the same way you would a physical illness - take it seriously, and don’t make the employee feel like they are doing something wrong by taking time to recover. Make sure you stay in contact in a way they are comfortable with - this could be email, phone or face to face. Agree with them what information they’d like shared with their colleagues, and how they’d like to be contacted by them. When they are ready to return to work, create a plan that helps them to adjust, and maintain regular contact once they are back. 

Our sources - find out more

These are just a few tips and pieces of advice about supporting staff members with mental health problems. The following links can give you more information.

Mind has a series of resources to download on several aspects of mental health at work.

Acas Website.

Mental Health Foundation also has online resources.

This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click on links in the article for more information). benenden health has not provided any direct medical advice within this article. Please consult the sources provided if you would like further information or support.

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