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Mental Health in the Workplace
Mental health is difficult to speak about with friends and family, never mind in the workplace. Discussing mental ...
Mental health is difficult to speak about with friends and family, never mind in the workplace. Discussing mental health in a professional work environment should be something that is second nature to employees and employers however, there is still a stigma around it. Checking in with colleagues and really taking the time to listen to each other needs to be encouraged in the workplace. Regardless if someone is struggling with work stress or a more personal problem outside of work, the same care and support should be provided to them from their employer.
Throughout Covid19 more and more people have been struggling with their mental health, varying from fears over lockdown ending, mask anxiety, grieving for a family member or loneliness. With restrictions almost fully eased, discussions about employees returning to the workplace have been a recurring topic of debate. It is important that businesses engage and really listen to their employees to understand how they feel about returning to the office and give them a chance to voice any concerns they may have.
Although encouraging conversations and providing support at work won’t solve mental health issues completely, they can provide a great support system and safe space for individuals to feel seen and heard. Mind mental health charity conducted research and found that 30% of staff disagreed with the statement 'I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed' © Mind. This information is published in full at mind.org.uk. This demonstrates the importance of employers needing to do more to encourage conversations regarding mental health in the workplace. Managers need to be aware of employees' mental wellbeing so that they can understand why they may be struggling at work.
How to support employees at work:
1. Open conversation
Having open communication with your colleagues is crucial in creating a safe space for open conversations between employees. By simply asking how someone is feeling and creating that open dialogue can really give someone the confidence to discuss their mental health and open up with what they are struggling with. As an employer, it is important that you are aware of any changes in employees behaviour and then approach conversation in a sensitive, supportive and empathetic way. Additionally, ensure you have regular catch-ups with your employees to check in on them and offer them support.
2. Listen and ensure confidentiality
When an employee bravely decides to confide in you to discuss their mental wellbeing, it is important that you reassure them that what they disclose is confidential and will be shared with the least amount of people possible. Every individual struggling with their mental health is different, therefore listening closely to their personal experience will allow you to respond in the correct way for them and help with any adjustments in the workplace e.g. flexible hours, mentoring etc.
3. Encourage a work-life balance
As an employer, it is important to set a good example of being able to balance your home life and work life. Being able to separate the two and set boundaries for your day is a positive step in reducing workplace stress and allowing you to switch off and relax. Another good way to encourage conversation is to do fun activities with your team outside of work, hopefully leading to people opening up and feeling comfortable sharing any mental health struggles they may be facing.
4. Encourage seeking support
It is great that employees feel that they can openly discuss their mental health struggles with their employers and colleagues however, sometimes that isn’t enough to support them. As an employer, it is important to encourage your team to seek help from professionals e.g. a GP or a mental health charity. In addition, it may be useful for employers themselves to seek advice and support on how to deal with those struggling with their mental health, so they can support them in the best way.
Everyone struggles with their mental health at some point in their lives, therefore all we can do is provide ears to listen with and shoulders to cry on for those who need it. Seeking help and advice from professionals is nothing to be ashamed of and should be encouraged more! Checking in on family, friends and colleagues is so important and not forgetting to look after your own mental wellbeing as well!
If you are struggling and need to talk, below are some free listening services:
- Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans
- Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line