The statistics concerning mental health suggest at least one in four of us will suffer from a serious mental health issue at some stage in our life.
It stands to reason that many of these incidents will affect individuals’ ability to work. It might be that they come in but are distracted and unable to focus, in other cases the mental health issue might require a period of leave.
Often though employees will struggle on, never mentioning their issues or only doing so when it gets to the point of them no longer being able to come to the workplace.
In many cases, there is much more the employer can do to create an environment in which people feel confident to raise the fact that they are struggling.
By doing this, there is the potential for issues to be raised sooner, for their workload to be managed and, more importantly, for the employee to get the support they require.
At Enjoy Benefits, we are specialists in setting up Employee Assistance Programmes and these can be a key strategy in helping employees get support.
However, we will come on to the benefits of EAP after some other practical tips.
It can be hard for people to come forward and say they have a mental health issue.
The person who is suffering with the flu would be sent home or, more likely, ring in sick and receive sympathy. The person who is depressed or suffering extreme anxiety might not be able to call in sick for fear of being judged.
Workplaces can set a culture where it is accepted that mental health is important and a valid reason for employees to seek time off.
Work can also be done to help employees feel they can raise any concerns with managers. If senior members of staff are open about their own struggles others will follow suit, the culture will be set. Of course, senior members of staff might not want to share their own struggles but, if they are not open about any mental health issues how can they expect others to be?
Language is also a key weapon – avoiding language that glorifies struggle and belittles mental health issues.
Stress, while inevitable at times, is not something to be sought or glorified. Similarly, seemingly throwaway comments about someone being grumpy might seem innocuous but would not be to someone who is doing their best to hide a mental health issue.
Use of language and looking for signs of someone perhaps having mental health issues can lead into the next change – having some staff trained to spot signs of mental problems.
It can be enough just to spot someone is more on edge than usual, that they seem preoccupied, perhaps less concerned by work. While this would not lead to a blunt asking of whether they had mental health issues, it might be enough to prompt a gentle question about how they’re doing.
Despite all these steps, it can still seem difficult for anyone in the workplace to bring up that they have ongoing mental health issues. It feels like a huge step to take and one that has to be taken under the cloud of having a mental health issue. Someone who is suffering from depression and extreme anxiety is only going to feel their anxiety worsen at the thought of having to raise their problem with a manager.
This is where the Employee Assistance Programme can be of great benefit.
With the EAP, employees have access to 24/7, confidential counselling. They have a phone number they can call at any time to talk through issues – trained advisors are able to help with any issue whether that is depression, debt management, bereavement or an event such as upcoming marriage or child birth.
An EAP – which can cost just a few pounds per employee per year – shows employees that their employer cares about them and takes their welfare seriously. It gives employees a chance to raise any concerns and problems but in a confidential way rather than by going straight to their employer.
The employer benefits through there being savings in time and resource.
There is more information on this site about Employee Assistance Programmes.
If you would like to discuss setting up an EAP please contact us by using our Contact Form or calling 0800 088 7315.