Top tips for employee mental health
Our latest research into workplace wellbeing ‘Employee Wellbeing Research 2018: How employers, CEOs and government are driving new agendas’ highlighted that mental wellbeing was the number one concern for UK employers. 60% of UK chief executives said that mental health is the area of employee wellbeing they are most concerned about. Leaders also said they recognise that high pressured working environments are putting their employees’ physical and mental health at risk.
Mental health in the Recruitment sector
• A recent survey identified the recruitment sector as the most stressful working environment with around 82% of consultants claiming to be stressed whilst at work.
• Heavy workloads, long hours that threaten work/life balance and pressure to meet targets are among the key triggers for stress within the recruitment industry
• Against this backdrop, some recruiters ‘burnout’ and leave the sector
Many employers are concerned about the rising cost of workplace mental illness. The government’s ‘Thriving at Work report’ into mental health estimated the cost of poor mental health to UK business stands at between £33 billion and £42 billion a year. Its report also found that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year.
However, despite these stark figures, relatively few leaders are proactively supporting mental wellbeing. We found that only 16% of employers have a defined mental health strategy in place, with a further 37% planning to introduce one in the next 12 months.
10 years ago nobody talked about workplace mental health, but it’s a major issue for employers today. Figures from mental health charity Mind tell us that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at every year; mental illness is hugely costly for employers and nobody wants staff with long term absences. The evidence is out there, but business leaders need to take action and consider what steps they need to take within their own workplace to support employees’ mental health.
 The Stroke Association Research
Here are some tips help employers tackle mental health in the workplace:
Promote your Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)
Most UK employers offer some kind of an Employee Assistance Programme, such as telephone and face-to-face counselling, but many are under used and under promoted.
Consider how you promote these programmes and ensure they are accessible for Line Managers too so they can discuss concerns they have managing an employee with stress or mental illness.
Make use of free services
The Government’s Fit for Work service provides a valuable occupational health service. All employers in England and Wales can refer an employee who has been off work for four weeks or more for a free assessment. The advice part of the service can be used by anyone in employment and is another avenue for line managers to get support and advice.
In addition to this, a number of leading charities have partnered to create Mental Health at Work, a free online resource centre for employers and their staff.
Check your insurance policies to see what services are offered
Often critical illness and group income protection policies provide a range of nurse-led services or support form registered counsellors, including mental health support. A personal nurse adviser or counsellor provides completely confidential help and support for as long as, and as often as, needed. Check what services you have already.
Consider offering flexible working
Flexible working is one of the main practices used to help support employees with mental health issues, and can be useful in assisting employees manage their work life balance and wellbeing.
Provide access to counselling
Counselling can be useful in helping employees better understand and manage their conditions. Short or long-term changes to work practices will reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of a mental health condition. For employees who have had absence due to mental health, regular risk assessments and monitoring can be used to prevent recurrence.
Invest in training
Training programmes for line managers and HR personnel have become increasingly popular and can assist in tackling some of the ongoing stigma around mental health. The Health and Safety Executive and ACAS are good places to look for advice and guidance on risk assessment and training.
Improve staff satisfaction and culture
Staff satisfaction and culture has an impact on employees’ wellbeing. Ensuring there are regular staff surveys and forums, where employees can address concerns, are a one way that management can understand some of the issues a workforce faces.
Develop Wellbeing Recovery Action Plans where appropriate
Employers can implement a ‘Wellbeing Recovery Action Plan’ with employees where a mental health condition is identified. This is a plan developed with line managers and employees in open discussion. It allows line managers to help employees, and employees to help themselves, by listing early warning signs or changes in behavior that might indicate an episode of mental ill health.
Addressing mental health issues in their early stages is best way of preventing them escalating and we recommend that all businesses should have a long-term strategy in place for recognising the signs and providing services to help.
Here are some tips you can share with your employees to help support their mental wellbeing:
• Make time to talk
Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.
• Get moving
Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good and regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy. Experts recommend that we should do about 30 minutes’ exercise at least five days a week.
• Take a break
A change of scene is good for your mental health. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’. Taking a break may mean being very active or it might mean not doing very much at all. Try yoga or meditation, or just putting your feet up.
• Eat well
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel, for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health
• Ask for help
None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.
Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear. Local services are there to help you. Alternatively, speak to your GP. Over a third of visits to GPs are about mental health.
There are also lots of great organisations who offer support and useful resources available:
• Mind - www.mind.org.uk
• Samaritans - www.samaritans.org
• Mental Health Foundation - www.mentalhealth.org.uk
• Together for mental wellbeing - www.together-uk.org