Now in it’s 19th year, Mental Health Awareness Week always begins on the second Monday in May. In 2019, it takes place between 13th and 19th May.
In a world that is increasingly opening up to – and understanding those with – mental health issues, it’s no surprise that Mental Health Awareness Week is attracting more and more attention in both the media and business worlds year on year.
Whilst I am a great supporter of anything that raises people’s awareness to mental health issues in the workplace, it takes more than just one week in the year to adequately support your employees’ mental health.
Right now, 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. Clearly, this can stop people from performing at their best.
Organisations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused. Smart businesses support employees who are experiencing mental health problems to cope and recover. The support people receive from employers is key in determining how well and how quickly they are able to get back to peak performance.
Here are 10 simple steps SMEs can take to make a real difference to their teams’ mental health, all year round:
1. Create a culture that supports staff to be open about their mental health: Send a clear signal to staff that their mental health matters and that being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. Work with your employees and managers to break down the stigma related to mental health.
2. Ensure your sickness absence and return to work policies apply to mental as well as physical health problems: Policies should make it clear that people must be treated equally whatever their health problem. Make sure this is communicated effectively so everyone in the business is aware.
3. Train managers in how to support their team through mental health problems: You can’t just ‘expect’ them to feel comfortable dealing with issues that have previously been considered taboo. Giving them the tools, confidence and support to engage in the right conversations is key to supporting employees properly.
4. Open up the discourse on mental health: It’s vital managers routinely ask staff how they’re doing and reference their mental health – it helps build up people’s confidence to speak up earlier on and get the help they need sooner.
5. Fully support anyone who discloses a mental health problem: Once you’ve opened up the dialogue on mental health with someone, the priority is to develop positive steps to address the key issues they’re struggling with. Generally, these steps are small and involve simple adjustments to someone’s job role or extra support from their manager. Often the necessary change is one of attitude, expectations or communication – rather than a major change or significant cost.
6. Develop proactive action plans that work for both the individual and the business: Support managers to work together with their team members to develop a personal action plan to proactively manage their mental health. This allows people to plan in advance and develop tailored support for a time when they’re not coping so well. It also facilitates open dialogue with managers – leading to practical, agreed steps which can form the basis for regular monitoring and review.
7. Be flexible and open minded to simple changes: When people feel under pressure they can find it hard to prioritise their workload. Flexible working hours and increased one-to-one supervision can help people better manage their time and plan and prioritise. Some find a regular surgery-style trouble-shooting session with their manager helpful, where managers can go through the person’s to-do-list with them to coach them on how to approach challenging tasks. Often this acts as a useful pressure valve to help people regain confidence and cope with challenges.
8. Manage an employee’s time off sick effectively: Sometimes an employee may be so unwell they need time off work to recover. The way organisations manage a period of sickness absence is key in shaping how well and how quickly people are able to return to work and get back to peak performance.
9. Prepare for an employee’s return to work: When people are ready to return to work managers should arrange to meet up in a neutral comfortable venue to catch up and discuss the details of their return together. An effective return-to-work interview is vital to build trust and engagement with the employee and support their smooth and sustainable return to work.
- take a person centred approach and be sensitive to the individual’s needs
- be proactive and get involved as early as possible if someone is unwell
- be positive, professional and supportive throughout the process
- maintain contact with people throughout their sickness absence.
10. Engage with a provider who can support you through the challenges: It’s always reassuring to know that you don’t need to have all the answers yourself. HR consultants (such as TheHRHub) have a wealth of experience in supporting managers and employees through all kinds of mental health challenges. It’s worth having someone on your side for support, should you need it.
For help and advice on any HR issue, get in touch for a no strings discussion about your business needs and how we can help. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.