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Mental Health in the Workplace – Your Role as the Employer, and Signs to Observe

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 2 years ago

While it might feel mental health is something we all talk more freely about in today’s society, it’s an escapable reality that in the workplace, many still feel unable to speak up.

 In fact, research released in recent weeks (Summer 2022) by Lifeworks, indicates that 91% of Britons believe people with mental health issues are treated differently at work.

That being the case, no wonder so many ‘plough on’ and seek to mask their vulnerability.

 Regardless of whether it’s hidden or evident, employers do have a legal ‘duty of care’ toward their staff. According to ACAS, the employer must do all they can to ensure employee health and well-being is supported. Indeed, a mental health issue is considered by law to be a disability, and so managers must provide reasonable adjustments, and avoid discrimination.

 While not only signs of mental health frailty are overt, here are some areas employers should responsibly look for:

-       Changes in behaviour and mood, particularly in terms of interaction with colleagues

-       Reduction in productivity or focus on work tasks

-       Increase in absence (citing sickness or other reasons)

-       Lateness for starting work shifts

-       Seeming tired, anxious, or withdrawn

-       Significant increase in reliance on smoking, drinking or even stimulants like caffeine

-       Changes in appetite

 Of course not all of these apply to someone experiencing mental health issues, and indeed, other factors may be more notable if you know an employee particularly well.

 It’s often helpful to identify whether others have increasingly observed in passing to you, that they believe someone has ‘changed’ or become less sociable or more angry.

 What happens next can very much depend on how willing the individual is to have a conversation about how they are feeling.

 You may find that they are reluctant, given the fear of stigma.

 The priority as an employer is that you consider the following:

-       Make it possible for an employee to come forward and have a private non-judgmental conversation with you

-       Ensure your workplace culture is one which reiterates an awareness of and support surrounding, mental health matters

-       Enable the individual to have a conversation with a person with whom they feel more comfortable (be that an external HR consultant, a different person of significance in the business, or a mental health advocate in the workplace)

-       Be a good listener and refrain from probing too hard or asking for justification for the way the person feels

-       Try to be solutions-focused, about how you will help the person move forward

If you need more help with managing a staff member’s mental health experience and want to support their peers and colleagues at the same time, consider resources such as ACAS, Mind and material produced by the Department of Work and Pensions.

 To find other useful resources and tips to help your business thrive, see our latest blogs here: