Q2 2021

12 | Q2 2021 Mental Health in the Workplace Mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety and depression, are common in the workplace, with the recent Covid-19 pandemic only serving to highlight just how many of us experience problems with mental health. While many business owners realise the importance of strong mental health at work, it can be difficult to tackle the subject as many simply do not know where to begin. With so much information, guidance and resource available in this field, it can be difficult to locate and pinpoint the correct information required, in addition to identifying the best approach to a once-taboo subject. This is further compounded by the apprehension of many managers to begin conversations around mental health for fear of saying something wrong and adding insult to injury. According to the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index, only 52% of those experiencing poor mental health for any reason have disclosed this to anyone at work (either a manager or a colleague). The top three reasons for not disclosing were: • not feeling comfortable discussing the issue (mentioned by 57%) • not wanting sympathy or to be treated as more vulnerable than colleagues (mentioned by 44%) • being worried that their employer would think they couldn’t do the job properly (mentioned by 41%) The stigma around poor mental health means that many people do not feel comfortable talking about it with their managers or HR representatives and are worried about how they will be treated. Indeed, in a survey of UK adults, 56% said they would not hire someone with depression, even if they were the best candidate for the job. A further report, published in November 2020 by the European Research Council, revealed an increasing reluctance to disclose poor mental health following the outbreak of Covid-19, owing to fears around its implications for job security if organisations were to begin making redundancies. Mental health charity, Mind, was founded in 1946 as the National Association for Mental Health, and this year, celebrates its 75th anniversary. Here, Mind’s Mental Health at Work team offers up some advice for business owners looking to tackle the sensitive subject of mental health in the workplace and how best to offer support to employees. Adopt a person-centred approach Everyone is an individual. They have their own unique circumstances, their own experiences, concerns and worries. The Coronavirus really highlighted that while we’ve all been in the same storm, we’ve been in very different boats, depending on whether we’ve had or not had the virus; whether we’ve had to shield; whether we’ve had parenting or caring responsibilities; whether we’ve lost a loved one during this time; or whether we’ve been working from home or on the frontline. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to mental health and wellbeing because we have different needs. Tools such as Wellness Action Plans are really useful for understanding what these unique needs are and how you can best support your staff accordingly. Listen to your staff and routinely monitor wellbeing Understand which work factors have the greatest pressure, what the pinch points in processes for the year are, and what systems could be improved or are current contributors to workplace stress. You might undertake this through one-to-one conversations, team audits or staff surveys, but once undertaken, you are in a strong position to begin addressing some of the fundamental work-related causes of stress within your business. Ask Twice The average person in the UK says they are fine 14 times a day. The simple act of asking twice reinforces that you care about an employee’s answer and have the time and space to invest in their response. In your approach to adopting person-centred principles and consulting staff, don’t be afraid to ask an employee twice if there’s anything you can do to support them or to enquire about how they are doing – it might be the space they need to be open and honest about their mental health. Raise Awareness The first steps for any organisation looking to address stigma are to explore ways in which your business can raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and thereby normalise the conversation around the subject. You might raise awareness through: • Sharing reliable mental health information from charities like Mind and Samaritans – whether that is a post on Microsoft Teams, sharing a link through a team WhatsApp group, or a poster on a noticeboard. • Exploring training available. There is a wide range of training options available and some excellent free courses such as the Zero Suicide Alliance’s suicide awareness e-learning course • Sharing resources and toolkits from the Mental Health at Work website. The Mental Health at Work website, curated by Mind, brings together a wide range of support resources and articles from across a number of different organisations. Among them, you’ll find toolkits that explore intersectionality and how mental health and wellbeing might be specifically impacted within different communities. You might normalise the conversation by: • Having your senior leaders openly discuss their own mental health and wellbeing. We all have mental health, just as we have physical health, and they might consider discussing how they’ve been feeling over the last 12 months and what steps they’ve been putting in place to support their wellbeing – this signals to everyone in the business the importance of self-care.