How To Manage Employee’s Mental Health at Work
Mental health conditions are not confined to certain times or spaces; they tend to follow people around, invading every aspect of their lives. Unfortunately, this means that it is quite common for employees in many workplaces to suffer from mental ill-health at any given time.
In the workplace, managers are responsible for supporting their employees, creating a culture of care, and promoting positive mental health. Managers must also ensure that the workplace feels safe and supportive of mental health in order to improve the well-being of individual employees and convey the company’s values, which can enhance respect and trust. The better the health and well-being of the workforce, the more successful, respected, and motivated the organisation will become.
Everyone goes through periods in life where their mental health is below par. After all, mental health problems don’t discriminate and can affect every single person. Managing mental health in the workplace and building a mentally healthy workplace is critical.
The more openly people talk about mental health, the less stigmatised it will become. This will help organisations and society as a whole.
What Is Mental Ill-Health?
Mental ill-health covers a range of psychological disorders that affect a person’s mood, behaviour, and thoughts. It involves mental health problems, which are often the result of life’s problems and stressors, which tend to resolve after some time. Mental ill-health also encompasses mental health conditions, which are more severe, long-term, and require a medical diagnosis.
Managing mental health in the workplace may feel intimidating as an employer, but it doesn’t have to be. Many practical steps can help support employees.
What Are Some Common Mental Health Problems People Face at Work?
There are a large number of mental health conditions that people can face at work. However, as mental health conditions present differently, the signs can be harder to spot. Yet, by understanding the different symptoms and types of mental health problems, employers can begin to make reasonable adjustments for their employees and create a work environment that is non-discriminatory and inclusive.
Below, we discuss some of the most common mental health conditions people face at work. It is important to note that these conditions often intersect, and it is common for people to struggle with multiple issues simultaneously.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition that affects 4.4% of people worldwide and 4.5% of people in the UK. However, it is not always easy to spot as some people will do what they can to mask the signs and symptoms they experience.
Usually, those living with depression will feel empty, sad, low, and unmotivated. Other symptoms may include:
- Low motivation
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Sleep issues
- Crying and tearfulness
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Low energy
- Consistent pains, aches, cramps, or headaches
- Suicidal thoughts
Remember to never jump to conclusions or assume things about someone’s mental health, as it is a sensitive topic that needs to be carefully considered. Some people may display the signs noted above due to other factors in their personal life.
Warning Signs of Depression At Work
Frequently arriving late to work, missing deadlines, lacking motivation, and making mistakes are all signs that may indicate that an employee is suffering from depression. Although, as noted above, some people will be adept at masking their mental health issues, mental health problems may be somewhat obvious in other employees. For this reason, asking an employee if they are okay and want to discuss anything can be incredibly helpful as some people may be struggling without anyone realising.
As an employer, it is essential to be aware that an employee with depression is considered disabled under the 2010 Equality Act if their mental health has a substantial, long-term impact on their ability to work. If their condition aligns with the guidance under the Equality Act, the employee gains discrimination protection at work.
Regardless of this guidance, any employee suffering from mental health problems should feel supported by their manager and comfortable at work.
What Is Stress?
Work can be a challenging place, catalysing feelings of stress from time to time. A tight deadline, lots of meetings, or being required to deliver a presentation can all be sources of stress.
Whilst work-related stress typically declines after the nerve-wracking event has passed, stress at work is persistent and chronic for some people. Without healthy coping mechanisms in place, an employee can feel continually stressed and overwhelmed, damaging both their mental and physical health.
Stress is a reaction to events that can’t be controlled, threats, or pressure that activate our psychological alarm systems. This alarm system can manifest in physical symptoms such as a faster heart rate, increased focus, changes in metabolism, immune system activation, or a fight-flight-freeze response.
Although the body and brain can handle small amounts of stress here and there, persistent feelings of tension and stress are destructive to health and well-being.
What Are the Signs of Work-Related Stress?
Work-related stress and mental health issues can result from overworking, a poor work-life balance, harmful relationships with colleagues, feeling unsupported at work, and an inability to talk openly about mental health problems.
As an employer, some signs of stress to look out for in an employee include:
- Anxiousness, lack of focus, and irritability
- Seeming tired, prone to illness due to a weakened immune system, and jittery
- Trouble balancing personal life and work life, complaining about colleagues or family members, and seeming detached from people
For those who have caring responsibilities and support people such as elderly relatives or children, unmanaged stress at work can develop into a mental health problem and lead to burnout.
What Is Burnout?
When work-related stress becomes chronic, it can lead to occupational burnout, which involves overwhelming exhaustion. Burnout also includes the following:
- Cynical and pessimistic thoughts
- Ineffectiveness at work
Occupational burnout can be a result of not setting boundaries at work, being expected to always be available and ‘on’, unmanageable workloads, and feeling underappreciated. Left untreated, burnout can lead to health risks such as:
- High stress
- Sleep issues
- Sadness, irritability, and anger
- Substance abuse
- Bowel problems
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
What Are the Signs of Occupational Burnout?
If an employee is dealing with burnout, there are some signs to look out for that might indicate they are struggling with poor mental health. These include:
- A negative attitude
- Poor performance
- Missing deadlines
- Frequent fatigue or illness
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, and uneasiness. Many people experience periods in their lives where they feel anxious; however, for those struggling with anxiety, these feelings are severe, persistent, and affect daily life.
Workplace anxiety can generally be attributed to the following four causes:
- Performance anxiety
- Imposter syndrome
- Social anxiety disorders
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
How To Spot Work Anxiety
Anxiety can manifest in many different ways but is often characterised by wanting to avoid social situations at work, such as talking to colleagues. Missing deadlines, seeming distracted and on edge, appearing nervous and shaky, avoiding eye contact, and seeming tense can all indicate that an employee is suffering from anxiety.
As an Employer, How Can I Start a Conversation About Mental Health Issues?
It is normal to feel overwhelmed and nervous about the prospect of opening a dialogue around mental health issues in the workplace. However, it can be easier than many people think. Employers do not need any special skills to have a conversation about mental health at work; they just need to be willing to listen, show respect, and have an approachable attitude.
Something that many employers find helpful is the tip to treat mental health conditions in the same way that physical health conditions would be treated. Effective conversations can begin by simply asking an employee how they are and if there is anything they need support with.
Normalising dialogue around mental illness will facilitate openness in the workplace and create an environment where employees feel safe and free from judgement. It is vital that conversations are strictly confidential and held in a quiet, private, and neutral space. Asking simple, non-judgemental questions will help employees express themselves fully.
Creating a plan for those struggling with their mental health at work should be the next step. This might include offering flexible working hours, discussing mental health triggers, and talking through practical adjustments to help support mental health at work.
Implementing a regular time to review this plan and see if it helps an employee with their mental health condition is also helpful. However, ensure that employees know they can discuss their mental health problems at any time too.
It is also vital that all employees are aware of the employee assistance programme within the workplace.
How To Manage Employees With Mental Health Issues
There are many different strategies and support measures that can be implemented to support an employee. More often than not, they are very simple, cost-effective changes that will have a lasting impact. Below we discuss some practical things employers can do to promote good mental health in the workplace.
Treat Mental Health Problems The Same As Physical Problems
When it comes to managing employees with mental health issues, it is first important to remember that mental health should be treated the same as physical health. Mental health problems can have just as detrimental an impact on someone’s well-being, if not more.
This will also normalise mental health struggles, encouraging others to seek support too.
Promote A Work-Life Balance
As an employer, it is important to ensure that staff are not overworked and have a healthy work-life balance. As a healthy workplace thrives on mutual respect, the more respect employees are offered, the more respect will be returned. In turn, this can help any organisation succeed.
Ensuring that all employees are treated with kindness and compassion will also help to promote good mental health at work.
Make Suitable Adjustments
Making reasonable adjustments such as changing the office configuration, moving desks to a quieter or more sociable area (depending on what an employee needs), or offering flexible working hours can be hugely beneficial.
Other reasonable adjustments such as creating a quiet, safe space at work can help someone with mental illness feel more comfortable.
Communicate With Employees
If an employee is working from home, checking in with them on a regular basis via face-to-face meetings or video calls is important when it comes to keeping them connected and staving off isolation.
Encourage Employees To Seek Mental Health Support
Encouraging employees to seek help from mental health professionals and obtaining some recommendations can help them obtain appropriate support and practical tools for managing their mental health. Allowing them to take some time off work to attend any appointments will further help their mental health and well-being.
Contact Us Today
If you are concerned that an employee might be struggling with their mental health support, we can offer professional guidance and support.
The Revoke Programme is at the forefront of outpatient behavioural and mental healthcare, providing the highest calibre of services from an experienced and compassionate team.
Contact us today to find out how we can support you and your people.