When we think of health and safety at work, we often think of preventative measures put in place to protect us physically — like the correct way to lift heavy objects, for example. We don’t always factor the emotional toll of work into employee well-being.
However, jobs can have an impact on employee well-being, although it’s often overlooked.
Did you know that behind musculoskeletal disorders, work-related stress is the second most common cause of occupational ill health? It accounts for 37 per cent of all work-related health issues and results in a 45 per cent loss in all working days.
In a national UK survey by Business in the Community, it was found that three in four employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health. 29 per cent of employees have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
So how are employers reacting to their employees’ mental health needs? The data seems to show a discrepancy between employer and employee perceptions. 60 per cent of board members and senior managers believe their organisation supports employees with mental health issues. In contrast, just 11 per cent of employees recently discussed a mental health problem with their line manager. Over half said they would not discuss their mental well-being with their manager.
The lack of discussion could be connected to the lack of training and knowledge line managers receive. Just 22 per cent of line managers have received mental health training to help them in their roles. However, these statistics aren’t reflective of line managers’ desire to learn. 49 per cent said that they would benefit from basic mental health training and 38 per cent would like to learn how to discuss issues with employees. Overall, 76 per cent believe that employee well-being is their responsibility.
What does this mean for employees? 35 per cent of employees did not ask their employers for support during their most recent experience of poor mental health. Of those that had mental health issues, only 25 per cent did ask for support. Shockingly, 9 per cent of employees experienced disciplinary action as a result of their mental health problems, which in some cases included dismissal.
Altering attitudes to mental health is clearly a priority, not just in employment but in society more widely. While we’re taking steps to do so, it can be difficult for employers to know how to properly support their employees’ well-being. Here, we share some tips to improve how we approach mental health at work.
1. Promote well-being as key for positive company culture
The wellbeing of staff members should be at the core of every business’ health and safety policy. Essentially, the best way to promote employee well-being is through effective management.
A good work-life balance is key to securing a good standard of mental health. From a business perspective, you may be keen for employees to work longer or additional hours. However, doing so has an impact on the amount of time staff members get to spend with loved ones, sleeping or relaxing. While it may seem like a short-term solution to tackle a particularly large workload, over time it can lead to reduced morale, irritability and lower productivity and performance levels. Ultimately, it leads to a negative result for both employee and employer.
Employees can become disheartened as a result of poor communication. Here are some ideas to tackle overwork and improve employee well-being:
- Make sure goals and progress are clearly communicated across the business. Not only will this benefit you as an employer, as staff members can offer suggestions and will be better motivated, your employees will also appreciate the clarity.
- Offer an employee reward scheme, where hard-working staff members can be recognised, will help boost morale.
- Regular social events will improve staff bonding and provide an opportunity for team members to let off some steam.
2. Stop the problem at the source
Of course, there are a number of factors that can influence an employee’s mental health. While employment is rarely the sole factor, it certainly can cause issues to develop. As an employer, you should do all you can to improve the wellbeing of employees and as such minimise the negative impacts an unhappy workplace can have.
Ensuring your workplace is fit for purpose is one way of boosting employee well-being at work. For example, if your premises are particularly cold or noisy, could you make small changes to improve overall morale? It’s often surprising the large impact little changes like this can have.
Workloads can be another issue that negatively impacts employee well-being. A large workload or unrealistic expectations can place pressure on your staff members and could lead to stress. As an employer, you can combat this by hosting regular meetings with staff to ensure they can communicate any problems they may have with their workload. Always make sure the task is realistic and manageable and, where necessary, split the load between multiple employees.
3. Support those with mental health issues
As an employer, it’s naive to think that your business will never be impacted by mental health. With the prominence of mental health issues, it’s vital that employers and senior staff members understand how to deliver effective support.
Keep communications open and honest and always focus on the staff member rather than the problem. In some situations, staff may need to take time off. While their absence will clearly impact your business, putting pressure on them to return is not the option. Instead, keep in regular contact and ensure adjustments are made to make their return to work as smooth as possible, like a phased return for example.
Clearly, mental health should be a focus for employers, alongside the now commonplace health and safety requirements. As we become increasingly savvy to society’s mental needs, it’s in employer’s best interest to implement this focus now.