Practical steps for helping manage mental health conditions in the workplace

In recent years there has been a mostly positive shift towards increasing awareness of mental health issues in the workplace.  However, alongside awareness, mental health campaigners would like to see more employers take practical steps to help aid their employees who are suffering from mental health conditions.

Taking into consideration the increasing levels of immediacy within modern workplaces, there has been a rise in the number of employees feeling under pressure constantly to perform to the point of feeling worn down.  This is in turn can lead to the development anxiety and depression, which affects a person’s ability to handle stress, communicate with others and make decisions.

In a study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development it was highlighted that employees suffering from poor mental health are more likely to become involved in conflict with colleagues, find it difficult to balance multiple tasks and take longer to complete those tasks, and struggle with concentration.

Develop an Action Plan

  • outline a step by step guide to educate staff and managers in order to reduce stigma and bias
  • develop support network to help those suffering with poor mental health, for example by having a trained workplace champion(s) who might not necessarily be a manager and who people feel they can approach
  • ensure that senior staff are seen to champion positive attitudes towards mental health awareness and that they lead by example
  • identify areas in the workplace which may lead to mental health issues arising, for example by looking into staff turnover and sickness absence. Involve staff in this process.  It will highlight that their employers are actively seeking to improve the working environment
  • encourage staff to develop their own wellness plans, which can help them to identify triggers and early warning signs, how their day-to-day performance is affected and what support they might need from their manager

What to do if a team member approaches you to talk about their mental health

  • allow for privacy, in a place not likely to be disturbed
  • show appreciation that your colleague is confiding in you
  • allow them to talk as much as they need and listen to what they are saying
  • try to identify areas in the workplace that may be responsible for increasing their mental health concerns, talk over potential solutions, and allow for time to think things over and consideration as to what positive steps and reasonable adjustments may be made
  • understand and agree how or if they would like their mental health to be communicated to and shared with their colleagues. No pressure should be applied
  • arrange to catch up and communicate regularly

Extend support beyond the employee experiencing poor mental health

  • managers should be available to all members of staff to talk about their concerns and worries
  • any support services offered by an organisation should be made available to employees and promoted throughout the workplace

Mental health issues affect people in many different ways. It is important to remember that many sufferers will experience highs and lows throughout their working career and life in general.  Fostering awareness of how mental health may affect people in the workplace is a positive step in the right direction, although using that awareness to identify and make changes in the workplace to reflect that awareness is an even better step.