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Saturday 10th October was Mental Health Awareness Day.  Such an important day in the calendar year:  Mental health affects us all whether in a positive or negative capacity.  The state of mental health is unique to each of us – our ability to maintain a positive mental health state, to strive for strong wellbeing and to develop coping strategies and resilience when faced with challenges.  The charity MIND highlights that:

  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.
  • 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England.

When it comes to the workplace it is vital that staff wellbeing is at the heart of the people strategy and employee value proposition.  Engagement, motivation, and strong well-being in staff directly impacts positively to the bottom line and the achievement of business goals. 

Equally, if your company has five employees or more, you are legally obliged to undertake mental health risk assessments and ensure that interventions and actions are in place to minimise risk.  Bower HR’s Health and Safety partners GoVox & Templer Safety and Security Ltd – advise that the increasing impact of the pandemic, financial pressures and worries of job security are all significantly contributing to an imbalance of our mental health.  It is therefore important that companies step up their awareness and pro-activity in this space.

So, what can employers do?

  1. Develop and Evolve Positive Experiences and Values

Positive experiences underpinned by defined values, make a significant difference in how people feel and improve loyalty to an organisation.  Positive experiences include engagement with each-other, understanding others’ perspective, supportive and collaborative opportunities and activities.  There are simple things line managers can do – and it may be stating the obvious, but it has to be said:  Saying good morning, genuinely asking how a team member is feeling, finding out what’s important to an employee, value the contribution and efforts of an employee, develop and challenging an employee to learn new skills.  Note: it’s not always about the monetary reward!  Also allowing staff to define the values which underpin the positive experiences and the culture of the organisation drive a greater chance of them being embedded through those positive experiences.

2. Notice the Signs

Be aware of the early signs of an imbalance in the mental well-being of an individual.   Have you seen a change in the employee’s approach, contribution or behaviour? Have they become subdued, distant or somehow different from how they would normally present themselves? Are the triggers coming from within the workplace or are they from external considerations? Some challenge and pressure can be exciting and rewarding, however this is a fine-tune balancing act.  Remote/home working has also been thrown into the mix, and companies need to be conscious that home working is not right for all.  For some, home working permanently is worrying as they strive and excel on interaction in a working environment; for some it may cause a risk due to domestic issues.

Remote work is undoubtedly making it more difficult to notice the signs. Using a mental health/wellbeing survey platform such as GoVox is a good way to help identify people that may require some support, and in what key areas.

3. Embed Techniques and Approaches

Never has there been a more crucial time for line managers to step up and demonstrate incredibly well their people skills and capabilities – particularly in communicating and demonstrating understanding – whilst recognising that they are equally under pressure too.  The relationship between the line manager and employee is just as vital as the techniques used to ascertain if an employee is willing to open-up and discuss the state of their mental health.  Being available to talk, asking the right questions, assurances of confidentiality and encouraging a flow of discussion are imperative.  Equally important are techniques such as listening, silence, not being judgemental, understanding, showing genuine empathy and sympathy.  However, it should be recognised that line managers are not counsellors either. Managing wellbeing ideally should be proactive, rather than reactive, in order to identify and address any problems before they worsen.

4. Know what to do next?

If you are able to uncover some or all of the issue causing poor mental health for an employee, a number of interventions can be explored:  A “wellbeing” action plan could be introduced by the individual to gain focus, understanding on actions and possible workplace adjustments and assess what practical steps can be taken.

Seeking external support should be encouraged:  From the employee’s GP through to establishing connections with great charities and organisations such as MIND which provide helplines and support into a company – all are great ways of showing employees you take mental health seriously.

If it’s financial troubles, banks offer financial awareness training direct into companies for example.

5. Training and Awareness

Training line managers further in mental health awareness, and indeed, having certified and trained Mental First Aiders in or associated with the company is highly recommended.  Also, try asking line managers and employees to attend webinars in respect to mental health awareness.  This will all contribute to show a greater appreciation and understanding of mental health.

Regardless of size – whether you are a small, medium or large sized – the positive mental health of your employees is needed to achieve a success for the company.

If you are a small or medium sized company and you have a need to broaden your awareness of mental health  issues and need support with how to complete the legal required risk assessment,  Bower HR, in conjunction with Templar Safety and Security Ltd, are delivering a mental health awareness and risk assessment course at a discounted price if you quote the code HRTEMPL. 

Additionally, we are delighted to endorse the GoVox workplace wellbeing application; ask us for more details.

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