“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin
In the first instance, employers should aim to prevent, as best they can, conditions which lead to poor mental health. Often problems occur because undetected issues are left unchecked, and situations can spiral into a crisis.
- Induction / Setting Expectations
Inductions – often solely for new starters of organisations – are essential for settling staff into their new roles. By conducting an in-depth induction process, employees will know exactly is expected of them, be aware of the broader organisation and how they fit into the organisation. An induction will also make employees aware of any health and wellbeing initiatives provided by the employer as well as options for flexible and home working. To be as effective as possible, inductions should also be provided to employees who are promoted or redeployed, to ensure their expectations match any changes in role. Providing clarity on expectations can play a big part in supporting an employee’s mental health.
- Positive Culture
Cultures are heavily impacted by the leaders in an organisation. Business owners and managers need to display the company’s values in a way that shows respect for mental health. Are managers regularly taking annual leave? Do they ask how their colleagues are feeling? Are the management team creating an open and trustworthy environment? Managers should lead by example, encouraging their teams to adopt healthier work habits. It is also important that managers are available for staff through regular one-to-ones and catch-ups; these can help to maintain good working relationships and build mutual trust.
- Workplace Training
Managers and staff should be trained to recognise the signs of poor mental health, how to manage it, and how to implement good work practices in their daily lives. Training shouldn’t be a one-off exercise but continuous and updated to reflect the ever-changing business environment. Training will normalise mental health within the workplace, allowing issues to be raised freely and aiding the creation of solutions to deal with the challenges.
While a business should have an overarching aim to prevent poor mental health, there will be occasions where sadly, staff will face challenges. As mentioned before, the lead-up to the holidays can be a particularly stressful time. It is, therefore, crucial that managers spot the indicators of poor mental health at an early stage and, by doing so, are also nipping any problems in the bud before they escalate into a crisis or sickness absence. What are the indicators of poor mental health? The CIPD, in conjunction with Mind, provide a helpful guide shown below (1):
If one or more of these signs is observed, this does not automatically mean the employee has a mental health problem – it could be a sign of another health issue or something else entirely. However, managers should show genuine interest in their staff, getting to know their typical daily behaviours and those outside the norm. If typical behaviour changes, employers and managers shouldn’t delay in opening dialogue with the employee. The CIPD recommend asking questions such as:
- How are you doing at the moment?
- You seem to be a bit down/upset/under pressure/frustrated/angry. Is everything okay?
- I’ve noticed you’ve been arriving late recently and I wondered if you’re okay.
- I’ve noticed the reports are late when they usually are not. Is everything okay?
- Is there anything I can do to help?
- What would you like to happen? How?
- What support do you think might help?
- Have you spoken to your GP or looked for help anywhere else?
If the issue is related to mental health, managers should quickly take appropriate action in consultation with the employee. There are many options which may help, which include:
- flexible hours or a change to start or finish times
- working from home at certain times or on certain days in a given period
- changes to break times
- a lightbox or seat with more natural light
- agreement to give an employee time off for appointments related to their mental health, such as therapy and counselling
- temporarily changing duties, for example changing the balance of desk work and customer-facing work, reducing caseloads, changing shift patterns
- increased supervision or support from manager, buddy or mentor
- extra help with managing and negotiating workload
- provision of information to promote self-care.
- access to internal financial wellbeing support.
The NHS (2) defines mindfulness as ‘paying attention to what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment’. The health service goes on to say,
‘paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing’.
While employers have a duty of care towards their staff, it is also important that employees care for themselves. Mindfulness is a key method to ensure ongoing mental and physical health, and employers should encourage it. The NHS suggest the following steps to be more mindful:
- Notice the everyday
- Keep a regular routine
- Try something new
- Watch your thoughts
- Name thoughts and feelings
- Free yourself from the past and future
For further information, visit the NHS website for further tips and support: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/tips-and-support/mindfulness/
When managers allow and champion team members to be mindful, they will contribute to the overall wellbeing of the organisation.
Christmas is fast approaching; let the season be filled with joy instead of poor mental health. If you would like any help creating a culture that prevents poor mental health, or advice on how to deal with a current challenging situation, get in touch with a member of the View HR Team.
Today’s Guest Blogger
Thank you as always to View HR’s Managing Director, Gemma Murphy, for sharing tips on managing employee mental health around the holidays.
Help and support
If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency. Call 999 immediately or The Samaritans, FREE on 116 123.Alternatively, call Dorset’s 24hr Helpline called Connection on 0800 652 0190.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here. You’ll find links for 1-2-1 and groups mental health support we offer here.
Please support our work
Dorset Mind is a self-funded local charity that helps people in Dorset experiencing mental health problems access the vital support they need. The charity is at the very heart of our communities shaping futures, changing and in some cases literally saving lives.