The Importance of Emphasising Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health issues are a common yet unavoidable issue for many individuals. The stresses and pressures that result from large amounts of responsibility take their toll on our state of mind, causing a vast range of issues – from mild stress to anxiety and/or depression. Many of these responsibilities relate to an individual’s home life, whilst others are based in the workplace. It’s widely known that a person’s quality of work can be affected by feelings of immense stress, or more serious health issues – so it’s important they are addressed and dealt with appropriately.

As a whole, the UK has undoubtedly increased mental health awareness in recent years. Many workplace initiatives have been put in place, in addition to the emergence of ‘Mental Health Awareness Day’, and general encouragement to ‘speak out’ about personal issues. It still stands, however, that mental health issues are not as widely addressed in the workplace as they are in the general public – and the reasons for this can span from no training or initiatives put in place, or for fear of being judged by other colleagues. It is, however, within the moral responsibilities of an employer to support their employees in this department, and every workplace should aim to create an environment in which individuals feel comfortable to speak about their problems – and feel confident that they will receive the necessary support.

In addition to addressing mental health issues, there are ways in which employers can help to prevent ill mental health through work-related causes. By ensuring that employees do not work excessive hours, you are showing your workforce that a work-life balance is important for a healthy mental state. Ensuring that employees are given an achievable quantity of work and establishing set working hours can help to put this in place. Providing areas that staff can retreat to can also help those who need a break away from the office environment. Additionally, putting initiatives in place that protect staff from bullying, harassment and discrimination is also vital in ensuring that employees feel safe and happy in their working environment.

Maintaining good levels of mental health in the workplace can also be improved by offering sufficient feedback to employees, whilst also ensuring they are clear on what their objectives and goals are. This improves productivity and motivation levels, thus helping to reduce feelings of stress and lack of purpose. Most importantly, all employers should have an ‘open door’ policy, which involves encouraging employees to speak out about anything that’s worrying them. Employers should aim to be as approachable as possible, and this can be improved by taking the time to really listen to their employees, and taking all situations seriously – without any judgement.

The employer and any relevant managers should be trained in spotting any signs, no matter how small, of mental health issues. By talking to employees regularly about their personal life, employers can identify common triggers of mental health problems – such as excessive workload and financial stress – and act on these appropriately. Knowledge of common mental health triggers should be central to this training, in addition to spotting signs of a change in behaviour. This could include anything that’s out of character; such as an employee suddenly beginning to turn up late – or alternatively, working much later – in addition to noticeable mood changes or tearfulness.

To find out how you can increase awareness of mental health in your workplace, contact one of our expert HR advisers here.

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