Every employer has good reason to care about their employees’ mental health. A recent Labour Force Survey estimated that in 2020/21, 822,000 workers in Britain suffered from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety. It’s no small problem.
As with any health condition, prevention is better than cure. Being able to spot colleagues who are struggling and offer support at an early stage could mean the difference between them being able to get help and advice on how to manage their mental health, or a potentially long-term impact on their wellbeing.
I have some personal experience of how important this kind of support is. A few years ago, I experienced panic attacks and at the time, I had no idea what they were. It wasn’t until someone recognised what was happening and pointed me in the right direction, that I was able to get the right help. This changed everything. Now, I’m a qualified mental health first aider and can see, through my work with clients, the positive difference that mental health support can make to all staff – not just those who are struggling.
So, what steps can you take to support the mental health of the employees in your workplace? Here are just some of the practical things you can do:
Look for triggers and pressure points
Big changes in the workplace can stress colleagues and create pressure points for staff already under stress from other factors. If you have a restructure or change of premises on the horizon for example, consider what support you can offer staff. Don’t underestimate the effects that the pandemic has had on people these past two years, particularly if they’ve suffered bereavement, become isolated from working remotely, or had to juggle care responsibilities.
Create a space to talk
Encourage all of your managers to check-in regularly with colleagues they manage during team meetings and one-to-ones. Make staff aware of any support on offer, with regular reminders in all-staff meetings, on your company intranet or perhaps via a poster on the wall, of numbers of organisations that can help, or who the company mental health first aider is, if you have one.
Train up a mental health advocate
There are formal training courses that offer recognised qualifications in mental health first aid. It doesn’t cost much to put someone through a course – and it can be done in as little as half a day. However, the benefits go beyond the individual being trained – it shows other people in your business that you are committed to supporting your employee’s mental health.
Your choice of advocate need not be driven by their day-to-day role. As is often the case with first aiders, it’s more important that they are enthusiastic and believe in the cause than it being appended to their existing role involuntarily. It’s also key that they are supported by the business leaders.
Create awareness across your workforce
If your managers find ‘check ins’ difficult, why not give them some training too? Training in mental health can go into different levels of detail depending on the needs of the client. I’ve worked with clients who put everyone through a half-day course, the managers through a full day and their designated advocates on a two-day course to become fully qualified.
Courses like these allow people to talk about mental health in a way that may be difficult in a normal setting. It can also start conversations that could head-off potential problems before they get more serious. But the benefits are also long-term; in fostering an open and caring environment where staff feel supported and able to reach out to others if they need help.
People Puzzles works with businesses across the UK to foster a happy, engaged workforce. Call us on 020 3633 6830 and find out how a part time People Director can help your business grow.
Caroline Miles, People Director