How to build a mentally healthy workplace

Promoting workplace wellbeing

When we talk about mental health at work, more often than not, we tend to think of employees who’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition and disclosed it. However, according to research, six in 10 employees are currently experiencing mental ill-health.

Mental ill-health can stem from anywhere. Workplace stress can be a contributing factor, or changes in personal circumstances, like a divorce, ill-health or passing of a family member can take their toll, and the impact can easily filter into individuals’ working lives.

Did you know, mental ill-health is thought to cost the UK economy £70billion* every year?

Stamping out the stigma

Whilst there shouldn’t be any stigma surrounding mental health, unfortunately, sometimes this is still the case. This stigma can cause employees to keep their condition bottled up, which can lead to isolation and further deterioration of their health and performance.

Conversely, employees with positive mental health and support from their manager are more likely to be productive and interact with their colleagues, resulting in better retention rates for your business.

So, here are our top five tips to creating a mentally healthy workplace.

1. Promote a healthy work-life balance

Managers should be encouraged to promote healthy working practices – like encouraging staff to take their contractual lunch breaks, leaving on time and use of annual leave. Managers should also monitor workloads to ensure staff don’t have too much on.

Having a good work-life balance can directly contribute to employees’ sense of wellbeing, and reduce the likelihood of sickness absence.

In some instances, employees may request a change to their hours or job role as part of a flexible working request. Should this arise, it’s important that you and your managers are familiar with any policies you have in place to deal with it – fairly and legally.

Here at Citation, where possible, we advise employers on all options – including flexibility. As a suggestion, something as small as allowing an employee to start or finish early to watch their child’s school play which can make all the difference to them.

2. Give employees a voice

To address this, it’s important to give employees ample opportunity to feedback on any issues that could be impacting them. This could be done by having an open workplace where a two way dialogue is encouraged to discuss any issues.

In addition, having regular 1:1 discussions with employees will give them plenty of opportunity to raise any issues – whether they be personal or work-related, and give you chance to support them, rather than leaving things unexplored which could be at detriment to their performance.

Other ways to obtain employee feedback could be through confidential surveys or team meetings, for example. Often, employees can suggest practical solutions to common bugbears themselves.

Resolving these kind of issues will not only have a positive impact on employees, but it’ll filter down into the service you offer, customers and suppliers, too.

3. Consistency is key

It’s not only necessary for managers to treat employees fairly, but to be seen to treat them fairly too. This comes naturally by treating all employees consistently, and acting in accordance with the policies and procedures you have in place.

This extends from the day-to-day – like completing return to work forms following a period of sickness absence, to the more far reaching things like promotion and recruitment.

4. Foster good working relationships between team members

Believe it or not, this step starts before you even offer someone a job. When recruiting, it’s important to hire someone that’s a good fit for your business – in terms of both skills and work ethic.

We’ve already touched on the importance of treating employees fairly and consistently, and this is something that should be distilled from day one. All employees need to be aware of any policies that impact on working relationships, like your grievance process and equal opportunities policy, for example. These should be supported with training upon induction, too.

Things like company-wide briefings, training and events are a good platform for employees to meet people outside of their team – and be introduced to new recruits and key members of staff – so that they’ve got a support network from day one.

5. Don’t shy away from the difficult conversations

Dealing with prickly subjects comes part and parcel with managing employees. Perhaps an employee’s not performing to the expected standard, or you’ve noticed a change in their attitude or demeanour – whatever the cause for concern, it’s important to address it.

We get that the idea of confronting these kind of issues can be nerve racking, but it’s important to adopt a proactive approach to a) prevent it from escalating further, and b) support the employee as best you can.

For smaller issues, the conversation alone might be enough to resolve it. However, sometimes these situations – alongside workplace stress – can be a contributing factor to someone experiencing mental ill-health.

Remember, ignoring the situation won’t make it go away – check out this video for guidance on how to have a sensitive conversation about mental ill-health.

Help is here for you

If you need help addressing mental health in the workplace, then you’re not alone. Organisations like Business in the Community, Mindful Employer, Rethink Mental Illness and Remploy offer lots of practical advice and guidance.

For advice on how to deal with HR issues that arise when managing employees, get in touch with our HR & Employment Law experts on 0345 844 1111 or use the form on this page.

If you’re a client, remember, we’re available around the clock with our 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848.

*According to research released by the Work Foundation.

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