How Employers Can Address Employee Mental Health Struggles

Posted: 11 Apr, 2023.

Mental health is a crucial aspect of overall individual wellbeing and affects every aspect of one’s life, including their work. Mental health issues have the ability to impact anyone, regardless of age, sex, or profession.

In the workplace, struggles with mental health can lead to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and high healthcare costs on the part of employers. It is essential for employers to recognise the potential impact of mental health issues on their employees and prioritise the taking of steps to prevent and address them. In this article, we will explore some ideas for employers to address these issues.

Create a Culture of Openness

One of the most important steps that employers can take to address mental health in the workplace is to create a culture of openness, by encouraging employees to speak up about their mental health issues without fear of stigmatisation, judgment, or punishment.

By creating an environment in which employees feel safe to share their struggles, employers can help to reduce the stigma around mental health and make the process of seeking help easier for employees.

This culture of acceptance and understanding may aid in making employees feel more comfortable to discuss these issues with their employers and empower them to seek help early on in their mental health journey.

Management thinker Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Although he was talking about success, it is equally applicable to mental health. How are you meant to help if you don’t know there is problem? Encouraging staff to be open about their mental health enables the business to put support in place.

To generate this culture of openness, several steps can be taken, including:

  •  Encouraging managers to openly discuss their own mental health struggles, to reduce stigmatisation around these issues and empower others to do the same.
  •  Providing mental health resources to employees in the form of informational brochures, posters, newsletters, or intranet links that can be distributed company-wide.
  • Hosting workshops or training sessions on mental health to educate both employers and employees on the importance of mental health and the steps to take to seek help when needed.
  • Offering anonymous surveys to employees to better understand, and subsequently address, their mental health needs.

Offer Employee Assistance Programmes

Employee assistance programmes can be a valuable resource for employees suffering from mental health issues. Employee assistance programmes typically include various services, from counselling and referrals to mental health professionals, to financial and legal assistance.

A study in the Journal of Business and Psychology confirmed that these programmes have the ability to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity. By offering these programmes to support mental health in the workplace, employers can provide their employees with the resources required to overcome these challenges and improve their overall wellbeing.

Provide Mental Health Training For Managers

Managers play a critical role in generating and maintaining a supportive work environment for employees with mental health struggles.

Mental health training can help managers to recognise signs and symptoms in employees who may be silently suffering from mental health issues, allowing them to identify at-risk staff, provide appropriate support, and adequately accommodate the needs of affected employees.

This can include flexible working arrangements such as non-fixed working hours and remote work, scheduled time for therapy or other medical appointments, and referrals to employee assistance programmes or mental health professionals where required.

Having the skills to recognise when a team member is battling with their mental health and facilitate early intervention before it becomes a bigger issue is beneficial to both the employee and the business.

Foster Work-Life Balance

The importance of work-life balance must be emphasised in the maintenance of good mental health. 31% ok UK employees feel they do not have a good work-life balance with heavy workloads, long working hours, and unrealistic work expectations creating significant workplace stress. Almost 3 in 10 (28%) workers believe that their poor work-life balance makes them less productive.

Employers can support employees work-life balance through an open-door policy for communication regarding difficult issues, allowing flexible hours and working from home, and adequate paid annual leave.

Further, employers can encourage employees to avoid working too many hours, take regular breaks throughout the workday, and ensure that they are free from work-related communications during their time off.

Reduce Workplace Stressors

Stress is a significant contributor to issues of mental health in the workplace, and is common in workplaces worldwide.

Employers can aid in reducing workplace stressors by addressing exacerbating problems such as work overload, inadequate working autonomy, and poor colleague relationships. In addition, employers can promote a positive work environment by creating opportunities for social support and recognition of employees for a job well done.

Benefits of Addressing Employee Mental Health Struggles

Employers have an important role to play in addressing the mental health issues of employees. They have the ability to support employees’ wellbeing which can pay dividends in a number of ways:

  • Decreased absenteeism and working days lost
  • Increased productivity
  • Higher levels of job satisfaction
  • Positive employer brand and reputation aiding recruitment
  • Improved retention rates

The reduction of stigma surrounding mental health issues can lead to better communication and early intervention, leading to an overall improvement to a company’s bottom line.

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