Welcome to our new online series on Mental Health in the Workplace. Taking care of our employees’ mental health is vital and we’ve brought together some of the world’s experts on this topic to share their thoughts with you.
Our panel of 10 specialists will tell you everything there is to know about supporting your staff when it comes to their mental health in your place of work.
Mental disorders comprise a wide range of problems, each of which has unique symptoms and treatments. As such, employers, especially those with diverse populations and needs, should promote activities and provide resources that address the breadth of potential challenges employees may be experiencing. One of the major challenges of mental health is the stigma associated with talking about it. Creating a culture that embraces openness and understanding, where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health, is a great place for employers to start.
Nick Patel, CEO of Wellable.
There is no one ‘right’ way to help an employee deal with mental health in the workplace. However, having a company culture that enables employees to be honest and open without fear of being judged or treated differently is a great first step. It is important that those in a position of responsibility are well-trained to be able to have open and honest conversations with their team on a regular and one-to-one basis. This means that team members can advise on in-work benefits and sign post resources, such as private counselling, employee assisted programmes and local schemes, all of which can help someone in both the short and long term.
Renae Shaw, Head of HR at Search Laboratory.
Employers can work to secure good mental health coverage in insurance policies for employees, especially parity with physical health coverage. They can also continuously scan existing policies, benefits, and structures which may present barriers to accessing mental health care.
Dr. Lee Keyes, is a Psychologist and Emeritus Director at the University of Alabama.
We believe that everyone should have their mental health and wellbeing supported at work. The day-to-day demands and pressures of work should not be a barrier to good mental health. Stress and poor mental health costs UK businesses between £33billion and £42billion a year through reduced productivity, high turnover and sickness absence. This is equivalent to £1,205-£1,560 for every employee in the UK workforce. Therefore, it is in employer’s best interest to support employees to have good mental health at work. Smart employers know that organisations are only as strong as their people – they depend on having a healthy and productive workforce.
We recommend employers adopt a three-pronged strategy that:
Promotes wellbeing for all staff
Tackles the causes of work-related mental health problems
Supports staff who are experiencing mental health problems
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind.
We all have mental health in the same way we have physical health. Creating a workplace environment where mental health is viewed in this way and discussed openly amongst employees, is one of the best ways to help staff feel they can seek support without being judged.
Establish a mental health champions network to combat negative reactions and encourage open workplace dialogue.
Promoting more flexible work patterns, like allowing employees to take time off for their mental health or partake in remote working will enable individuals to continue their roles effectively during difficult periods.
Businesses can introduce Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPS), often offered with group risk products like Income Protection, for those who may need more advanced support.
Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health.
It’s important for employees to feel safe and to know that if they reach out for help, they will get it. The employer should be able to offer free, confidential discussions with a trained mental health worker who can signpost the employee to resources and services that can help them. Mental ill health should be treated just like any other illness – the brain is an organ just like any other and can malfunction just like any other. Give them the space they need to heal, send them a get well card and remind them of their value to the business.
Shona Davies, Founder of Shona Davies Consulting.
It’s very important to create a company culture where employees feel they can speak honestly with their managers and employers about their mental health and know that it is ok to be suffering mentally. It’s great to see policies such as flexible working and unlimited holidays aiming to improve work life balance and as a result, mental health. But these alone aren’t enough. It’s key to have more tailored mental health initiatives sitting alongside these too. At Perkbox, for example we also have: an EAP offering 24/7 support and structured counselling, mental health first aiders on site, and Perkbox Medical; a health cover that’s affordable, accessible and easy to manage for every business.
Chieu Cao, Co-Founder of Perkbox.
The most important thing is to create a work environment in which it’s ‘the norm’ to talk – be that about anything they’re experiencing in their work life or personal life. It’s especially important for the leadership team to share any personal experiences around mental health, for team leaders to make sure they’re asking their team members on a regular basis how they are and to share any concerns in a safe space, and for the company to have an open and visible policy around mental health – just like they would have a policy for sickness absence or equal opportunities.
Lucy Faulks, Co-founder of Elevate.
Many employees are afraid to tell their employer that they are experiencing a mental health issue for fear of it affecting their performance review, promotion opportunities, how they are viewed etc. It is important that employers send a clear message to all employees that their mental health matters and that they will get all the support they need in the workplace.
Employers should take the time to get to know their employees, they will then become aware if someone is struggling or having a difficult time. It is important to listen, not to make assumptions, ensure confidentiality, be supportive and encourage someone to seek additional support if needed.
Paula Whelan, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Right Track Learning.
For employers, it’s about addressing mental health and providing resources. One that I’ve seen be effective is an employee assistance hotline they can call, which will triage them to counselors or to inpatient immediate care if need be. But this shouldn’t stop at just the employees, leaders can also call the number to obtain help in how to work with an employee who is struggling.
Onsite medical clinics are growing in popularity among employers. Adding a full-time mental health counselor who is part of our onsite medical clinic is extremely beneficial. Instead of needing to schedule an appointment offsite, having that benefit at the clinic allows employees seeking help to simply schedule an appointment, and leaders and human resource professionals can help people get to the clinic when necessary, or get them in to see the counselor. A counselor is also there for anything that requires immediate attention, like someone threatening suicide.
Nicole Thurman, Vice President, Talent Management at CHG Healthcare.