4 tips for managing and supporting mental health at work
Is your organisation seeing an increase in work-place stress, depression or anxiety?
If so, you’re not alone.
Although the rate of workplace mental health issues remained flat during the first half of the 21st century, it’s been on the rise since 2010, and the Covid-19 pandemic caused a significant spike.
According to NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme (IAPT), a scheme which aims to provide talking therapies for working-age people, 1.46 million people were referred to IAPT in 2020/21.
The subject of mental health at work has gained a lot of traction in recent years, and organisations need to consider how their employee wellbeing strategy is managing and supporting mental health at work.
Why you need to consider the mental health of your employees
The value added to the economy by workers who have or have had issues with their mental health is estimated by the Mental Health Foundation to be as high as 12.1% of UK GDP—that’s £225 billion per year. The Foundation also found that a worker’s employer played a key role in managing mental health, with 86% of employees believing that their job and being at work was an important factor.
With this in mind, it’s clear that businesses need to be proactive in supporting mental health in the workplace.
What happens if you overlook the mental health of your people?
When your workforce is stressed at work, or experiencing depression or anxiety, their productivity falls, they feel more fatigued, their decision making suffers and absenteeism increases.
Problems with mental health at work don’t just affect employee performance, but also how likely you’ll be to attract and retain the best people.
According to a 2016 study conducted by Kronos, 95% of HR leaders believed burnout was one of the biggest challenges for maintaining strong retention, while Limeade found that 91% of employees would recommend the organisation to a friend if they felt their mental health was supported.
There’s also a legal implication for organisations that don’t make efforts to support employees experiencing mental health issues.
Most people with ongoing mental health problems meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act (2010) and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). Not only does this mean they’re protected from harassment or discrimination at work, but also that they’re entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their job or work.
Examples of these reasonable adjustments would include:
- Allowing an employee to start later or finish earlier due to the side effects of medication.
- Allowing for and facilitating remote working on set days or when required depending on the severity of their symptoms.
4 ways you can manage and support the mental health of your employees
Let’s take a look at four ways your organisation can ensure you’re managing and supporting mental health at work.
1. It’s good to talk
One of the most effective ways of managing mental health is to talk about the things that are stressing us out and causing anxiety, and talking therapies have long been recognised as a key treatment for mental health issues.
When it comes to supporting mental health at work, it’s essential your organisation fosters a supportive culture where your people feel like they can speak to line managers, HR or senior management about mental health-related issues.
An important element of this culture is putting in place programmes that demonstrate the company takes its employees’ mental health seriously.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) will provide independent mental health support, guidance and advice by connecting your employees with accredited counsellors.
Implementing an EAP will also help to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues by making it clear that your organisation takes the issue of managing and supporting mental health at work seriously.
Get in touch with our team to find out more about our EAP.
2. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle
Exercise has been shown to improve mental health, reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. However, if your employees’ work is largely conducted from an office, how can you as a business encourage a healthy lifestyle?
You might think the amount of exercise an employee gets per week, or how healthy their diet is, is down to them. However, there are a number of things you can do as an organisation to support your workforce in making healthier choices.
For example, if your workforce is having to put in long hours on a regular basis, their opportunities for exercise outside of work are going to be reduced, while less time often leads to unhealthier meal choices. Having to cook a proper meal from scratch when you’ve had a long day at the office isn’t very appealing, is it?
Organisations can also put in place provisions that make it easier for their employees to lead a healthier lifestyle. Consider offering free fruit or other healthy snacks, or implement employee benefits that support physical wellbeing, such as a free or discounted gym membership.
3. Supporting financial wellbeing
Worrying about money is one of the biggest drivers of stress in UK adults, and as an employer you’re uniquely positioned to support your workforce’s financial wellbeing.
Salary is, of course, a key element of this, but your financial wellbeing strategy needs to go further.
Through a combination of benefits, discounts and rewards you can help your employees’ salaries go further, whether that’s money off the weekly shop, discounted luxury items and family holidays, or prepaid cashback cards that can be used wherever they see fit.
Salary sacrifice schemes are also an effective tool for supporting financial wellbeing, while also providing savings for the company on employer National Insurance contributions (NICs). These schemes might include:
- A cycle-to-work scheme that allows employees to purchase a brand new bike while saving on their own NICs. A cycle-to-work scheme also helps to encourage a healthy lifestyle and support physical wellbeing.
- Annual leave purchase that empowers your workforce to take more time for themselves and achieve a better work-life balance.
- Season ticket loan schemes that can help make their commute more affordable by spreading the cost over 12 months, while avoiding expensive lines of credit.
4. Invest in training
Dealing with mental health issues in the workplace isn’t easy. Management also needs to be supported and understand what they can and should do in the event of one of their team members coming to them with an issue, or showing signs of anxiety or stress.
Invest in training for all line managers, and put in place policies and procedures so they know what steps to follow when a mental health issue arises. This will ensure the employee receives the support they need, and that the organisation is fulfilling their legal obligations.
Looking to support your people?
There’s a lot to consider in order to fully support your workforce, and it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to putting in place programmes and policies that will help you to manage mental health at work. However, if you want to avoid the consequences of failing to support your employees mental health, including falling productivity, increased absenteeism and poor decision making, it’s an issue you’re going to need to tackle.
Want to find out more about our range of products and how they improve employee wellbeing, engagement and more?
Here at Sodexo Engage we’ve been working with organisations just like yours for over sixty years, providing best-in-class solutions that support every aspect of employee wellbeing.
We understand there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for your employees’ mental health and wellbeing, and as such our experts will work with you to identify the programmes that will best suit your business and solve your specific challenges.
Get in touch and start your journey towards becoming a more supportive organisation.