Did you know, according to a survey carried out by the charity Mind in November 2014, 95 per cent of employees who took time off work sick due to stress gave their boss another reason for their absence, and only five per cent told their employer exactly why they needed time off?
As a business there are three main areas to address: education, support and recognition. Education runs through all three areas. Employees at all levels need to be made aware of mental health in order to provide an environment that enables employees to be open about it. Managers need to be given guidance on how to deal with employees who may have mental health issues without alienating them.
Support should to be provided but it needs to be right for your workforce. Putting an employee assistance programme (EAP) in place is a good starting point as it can provide counselling on topics that are likely to cause stress. A variety of help lines are available that cover stress, bullying, marital issues, financial problems and legal advice. Education also falls into the support section. Employees need to know how to access the support network that their employer has put in place and to understand that it is completely confidential.
Recognition also requires education so mental health problems can be spotted by colleagues and managers. If someone has a history of mental health problems, it is worth asking them how an episode begins for them. If you believe you can see it starting, then speak to them and find out how you can support them through it. Asking a simple question when someone comes into work can make a big difference to their day and how they are feeling.
At Personal Group, our group HR director, Rebekah Tapping, believes in working on preventative measures. She said: “Your approach to mental health will depend a lot on your environment, for example the support required within the police force will be different to the support required in an office environment. At Personal Group, we offer an EAP that provides counselling. There are different levels of EAPs and they don’t all offer face-to-face counselling, so this is something to check before putting it in place for your company. Staff need to understand that the EAP is there, that it’s free and that it is anonymous. We monitor EAP stats, which are completely anonymous, but if they indicate a spike in a certain area then we look into that.
“I believe in preventative measures such as the benefit of exercise on your wellbeing. Our strategy is to provide a positive environment to work in, and spot and prevent problems if possible. We ensure employees can easily access help through our EAP when they need it. We also have a gym on site; we offer discounted gyms through our in-house benefits programme, which all support general wellbeing. Also one of our values is ‘we have fun’ and we set up social events with employees throughout the year. We have a lot of charity activity too and have recently sent seven volunteers to Kenya to assist with educating young people out there, all of which has a positive impact.”