by Aspect County

Are you an Employer – have you got problems?

Mental health awareness has been in the headlines a lot lately, and as an employer, you may be wondering how mental health issues could affect your business and employees.

This year a paper by the Institute of Directors (IoD) titled A little more conversation” called on UK businesses to set up formal mental health policies and integrate mental health awareness into line management training. In a foreword to the report, Prince William wrote that Britain’s employers must support the mental as well as the physical well-being of the 31m people at work in Britain”.

What is mental health?
Mental health is about how we deal with the stress of life. It impacts how we relate to the people around us and the decisions that we make.

Looking after our mental health is important and the support employees receive in the workplace can be critical in their ability to manage their mental health issues and continue to work.

How big is the issue?
Research carried out by mental health organisations has shown that each year 70 million working days are lost due to mental ill-health, and about 30% of all GP consultations are related to a mental health issue. The mental health charity Mind also found that 1 in 6 workers are dealing with mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression or stress.

Stress at work can often affect a person’s mental health and may trigger an existing mental health problem. The employee may have been previously managing this issue without it affecting their ability to work.

Many employees keep quiet about their mental health complications, for fear of discrimination from managers or colleagues. This means problems are often not identified until it is too late which has an adverse impact on both the employee and the workplace.

Early warning signs
As an employer, these are some of the early warning signs that you should look for that may indicate an employee is struggling with a mental health issue.
• Unusual increases in sickness or absences
• Poor performance
• Coming in late to work
• Use of alcohol, caffeine or other substances
• Complaining of headaches 
• Not wanting to be social 
• Being unusually emotional or irritable

One of the ways to spot the early signs of stress or a mental health issue is by talking with your employees. The more that open communication is encouraged, the more likely you are to get good feedback from your staff allowing you to see any early indicators of stress.

Some of the ways that an employer can proactively manage mental health in the workplace are by discussing any concerns that they or the employee may have during company reviews. The organisation may want to consider introducing self-awareness training for their workforce to help staff identify their ownstress triggers.

It may be beneficial to look at ways in which the organisation could measure how the workforce are feeling and the overall wellbeing of the business to help identify areas where more support may be needed. 

Supporting staff
The support people receive from their employer is key in determining how they deal with their mental health issues.Mental health should be treated in the same way as physical health, with clear communication of the mental health strategies and policies the organisation has in place to support its employees. It is also important that employees understand that being open with their employer or colleagues will lead to support not discrimination. Creating a culture where people can feel confident and comfortable discussing their issues with a line manager or colleague is essential in managing the mental health of your business.

From a legal perspective, the 2010 Equality Act states that employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities, including those who have a mental impairment that impacts long term on their day to day activities. To ensure that organisations are meeting this duty of care they should build appropriate support for their workforce around the issues of mental health into their business model.

Employee Assistance Programmes
One way in which employers are showing their support is by introducing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). These are inexpensive to implement and can help with a range of issues such as bullying, harassment, stress as well as legal and financial problems – all areas which may affect an individual’s mental health. Most EAP’s offer counselling free of charge, whether that be over the phone or in person, meaning employees can get confidential advice and support much earlier. The system often works as a preventative safeguard addressing problems before they have time to escalate and affect a person’s performance at work.

Feeling cared for
One of the biggest positives about having an EAP system available to your employees is that they feel cared for as they have access to confidential help. Supporting people when they are experiencing mental health issues is not just about employee retention it sends a message about your values as an organisation. All staff need to see that the firm they work for cares about them, treats people well andlives its values. 

Benefit to business
Working towards creating a healthy and stress-free workforce can lead to higher levels of employee engagement, staff morale, productivity and job retention. After all, if employees are your organisation’s greatest asset, then you need to look after them and look after them well.

If you are considering implementing an EAP or just strengthening the services, you currently offer to your employees, then contact MRA Business Solutions to find out how they can assist you with supporting you, yourstaff and building a healthy future for your business.

You can contact MRA Business Solutions Ltd today for a no obligation, one-hour complimentary consultation. Working with clients to mentor, support and develop.

Telephone: 01424 776214