How to nurture good mental health at work – and improve your bottom line

Mental health issues are hard to spot, but the impact they have on your staff and your business is clear

Mental health issues. You often can’t see them on the surface. They are not quite as obvious as a broken bone. And yet they’re all around us. One in six people each year will suffer from at least one common mental health issue. And by 2030 it could become the world’s leading global illness, with anxiety and depression being the most common form.
There’s a lot here for employers to think about.  Employers and employees alike all lead incredibly busy, and in many cases complicated lives. So it isn’t surprising that work related stress flies completely under the radar of most employers. The impact it has though on your staff turnover, productivity and absence levels is very real (work related stress is already responsible for the loss of a massive 10.4 million working days per year!).stress-meditation
And on a higher level, an employer’s failure to recognise or support someone with a mental health issue could invite a tribunal claim, as mental health illness can be classified as a disability.
There’s no sure fire way of preventing mental health issues affecting your staff and impacting your business. But with these small improvements to the way they’re managed, you could make the world of difference to your employees’ health and your bottom line.
Remove the stigma! Mental health isn’t something openly talked about in the office. Most prefer to suffer in silence, which only serves to worsen the problem. Your staff need to know that they can approach you about these issues, that your organisation will support, not punish them. With a culture of openness and the fear of stigmatisation removed, you’re more likely to learn what’s causing your employees’ stress so you can tackle it.
A work / life imbalance is a known key cause of work related stress and mental health issues. Are staff overdoing it? If yes, are they laden with too great a workload? This won’t always be the case, so don’t immediately reduce it. Most issues like this can be tackled simply by working smarter and more efficiently. Work with them to find the best solution. You and your managers should be trained to recognise when an employee is struggling and know how to react to it, i.e. spotting if somebody isn’t taking adequate breaks. Lead by example and don’t encourage a long-hours culture.
Bullying and harassment isn’t blamed for as much workplace stress as the work life balancing act. But it’s one that’s absolutely crucial to stamp out. Don’t have the anti-bullying policies to back yourself up? Get them in place!
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP). Responsible employers can provide their team with the tools to independently tackle their stress in and outside of work. Bigger businesses have long offered counselling and access to a rich support infrastructure to their teams. The HR Dept’s EAP service brings this to smaller businesses. SMEs who offer it, grant their staff access to free, confidential support to help them overcome the obstacles that’re impacting their mental health.
If you have employees who are showing signs of poor mental, or you want to be prepared if they do in the future, get in touch with The HR Dept. We can help you put the right structures in place to manage mental health effectively.

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Ian heads up the HR Dept Edinburgh & the Lothians team. The HR Dept specialises in helping SMEs with everything to with employment, through a local and personal service delivering practical and pragmatic advice and support. With nearly 30 years HR experience, Ian has a wealth of experience in helping businesses to ensure success through their people, be legally compliant and handle tricky people issues. As a business owner himself, Ian understands the challenges that come with running and growing a business. He is known for his ability to explain complex concepts simply and to make learning fun and enjoyable.