Mental health encompasses our emotional, social, and psychological well-being and it affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps to determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.

Unfortunately, mental health issues can affect one in four people at some point in their lives and have a significant impact on employee wellbeing. With so many people affected, it’s important that employers understand how to effectively support their staff, and create conditions where employees feel able to speak openly about how they are feeling.

Research has suggested that poor mental health in the form of depression and anxiety is linked to reduced productivity, and how well you are able to do your job. Therefore, by positively managing and supporting employees’ mental well-being, employers can ensure that staff perform to their potential – and this allows the business to achieve peak performance. We understand that starting a conversation about mental health can be challenging, so we have provided some recommendations to help employers feel more comfortable doing so.

 

Talk openly

Creating a culture where conversations about mental health are regular and normalised can be very beneficial, as talking openly about it can help break the stigma that is often associated with the topic. A good place to start is by having a meeting where employees are made aware that you are there to listen and support them, and that the company truly cares about their mental health and well-being. Talking openly about your own mental health journey and the challenges that you have faced, if you feel comfortable doing so, will likely encourage others to share their lived experiences too.

 

Regularly check in with your team

Regular one-to-one catchups with employees provide an opportunity to openly talk about mental health. Consider using this time to ask employees how they are, showing that you really do care about their answers and reassuring them that anything they share is confidential. If the individual opens up and tells you that they have been struggling, they will likely appreciate discussing some adjustments that can be made in the workplace to help them cope with the challenges that they are facing. Some examples of workplace adjustments include flexible working hours, changes to break times, provision of quiet rooms, and the introduction of mentor systems. Regular catch ups can also help you gain insight into whether the adjustments are useful, and how you can further offer tailored support to the individual. For more information about how to support employees who are experiencing mental health problems, Mind has a very useful resource available that can help guide you and ensure your employees are getting the support that they need.

Anonymous surveys are also a great way to gain insight into your employees’ well-being. Some example questions include:

  • Do you feel supported?
  • Do you know whom you can talk to if you are struggling?
  • Do you feel emotionally drained at work?

These insights not only provide you with an idea of how employees are feeling, but can also help you to track the impact of new policy introductions or periods with heavier/lighter workloads, etc.

 

Introduce an employee well-being program

Introducing an employee well-being program that offers tools and resources to employees is also a great way to start the conversation about mental health in the workplace. Making employees aware of all the resources available to them, such as your Employee Assistance Programme, as well as online mental support and useful contacts, will help them to recognise that help is available, and that they don’t need to struggle alone.

A mental health first aider could also be a very valuable addition to your well-being program, and will provide employees with a point of contact if they are struggling. Mental health first aiders are trained to listen, spot early signs of mental ill-health in others, and signpost someone to appropriate support. It is so important that employees are aware of how they can access support and have multiple different ways they can reach out for help, as there’s no one size fits all approach to mental health.

 

In conclusion, creating an environment where staff feel able to talk openly about their mental health is extremely important, as problems are less likely to build up. We hope our recommendations are useful to employers who are wanting to start the conversation about mental health, and show employees that they truly care and want to support them.