On the 10th of October every year, we observe World Mental Health Day in an effort to raise awareness of mental health issues. Talking about mental health has been a societal taboo for long enough that we still find it hard to discuss mental health with our loved ones, let alone individuals we encounter in our professions.
Often, and especially in competitive workplaces, showing or expressing problems relating to mental decline is not seen as an attempt to solicit help, but a sign of weakness.
When individuals aren’t given the help they need, their condition may lead to burnout, much more serious states of mind and job loss. This can be devastating for an employee’s family and a loss for the organisation that employs them. In fact, research published in Thriving at Work: The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers found that 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their job each year.
Silence around the subject means that contingency plans for mental health related problems are not made in most workplaces. Simple steps employers can take, as outlined in this guide, can go a long way.
Ways to encourage and manage good mental health in the workplace
Let employees take a mental health day
One of the ways we can understand mental health, especially where anxiety and depression is concerned, is that it exists on a spectrum where on one end is a constant low or anxious feeling, in the middle is a mix of good and bad days, and on the other end are constant good days.
Being able to take a day off work when going through a spell of depression or anxiety can be a great method of letting employees take some time out to assess and become aware of what might be the problem. This is also called ‘taking a mental health day’ and should be classed as a sick day, just like a day off for a physical illness would be.
Encourage open conversations about mental health
When employees can discuss their state of mind with peers in a safe and receptive environment, they feel less isolated and more secure in their job role.
It also gives employers the opportunity to give assistance and advice or even just help solve a work-related problem. Encouraging employees to seek professional help, like a visit to the GP for instance, can track any severe mental health problems or physical ailments which might be causing emotional unrest, such as a sleeping disorder.
Consider introducing new workplace assistance
Talking therapies provided by EAPs or employee assistance programs provide confidential counselling services with flexible connectivity such as apps, 24 hour phonelines and face to face counselling.
These kinds of options in the workplace can help employees to feel valued and secure, as well as giving them a confidential outlet for any issues they might be facing.
Produce, implement and communicate a mental health in the workplace plan
Producing a step by step plan that reminds workplace leaders to encourage staff to take breaks, do mindfulness exercises and check in on their state of mind is a measurable way of putting a mental health plan into action.
If you wanted to take this a step further, you can even publish your mental health policy and the steps you’ve taken towards achieving mental health in the workplace.
Good working conditions
Good working conditions start with reasonable workloads, enough time off between shifts or working days, reasonable working hours, fair pay, and the opportunity to improve and learn new skills.
Employees who feel like they have too much work tend to skip their breaks and eat while they work. This can be bad for their mental wellbeing because switching off lets us recover from stress.
Breaks at work can be used for taking walks, doing mindfulness exercises or any other activity that can help the mind reset and recover.