With #TimetoTalk day just passing it seems a good idea to talk about mental health in the workplace. With statistics like 1.5% of workers suffering from depression, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that this is something employers can no longer ignore. With comments from Theresa May stating that mental health provision is inadequate and that more resources should be allocated it makes you wonder whether employers realise the extent of any health and wellbeing problems they may have.
This year it was announced that the HSE’s five-year strategy plan has a strong focus on wellbeing and health. With IOSH running free events such as ‘Mental Health First Aid’ (Thursday 20 October 2017, Nottingham) resources are available to help employers support any employees whom may be experiencing mental health issues But what if you don’t have any idea if your employees are having any mental health concerns? Then perhaps you should consider an occupational health and wellbeing assessment as this can clearly identify where your organisation has gaps in meeting the implied legal requirements for Health and Welfare under Section 2(1) of Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Such an assessment will also help you when undertaking a cost versus benefit assessment of systems to maintain health and welfare of your colleagues whilst at work. Simple initiatives can be introduced with minimal time and cost to make improvements. Such an assessment will review systems such as monitoring absence and sickness for hidden patterns/trend; reporting stress and ill health systems; access to specialists for referral; feasibility of work adaptations/work environment and working patterns etc.
Mental Health tends to be a taboo subject, and one that many feel shouldn’t be discussed within the workplace. But if we are honest with ourselves, most of us experience some form of mental health difficulty at some stage of our life, even if it is only short-lived. Whether this is due to occupational or non-occupational circumstances, the result is the same.
By implementing just a few simple measures you can make your employee’s journey to recovery easier for them. If it becomes known that one of your employees, or a colleague, is suffering from mental health problems the first and most important thing you need to do is talk to them. Find out what the problem is, listen to their troubles, and see if there is anything you can do to help alleviate their struggle. The biggest challenge though is often getting people to talk due to the fear of recrimination, job security or not being taken seriously. So it is essential that your workplace culture addresses the level of openness and respect for individuals who may be having mental health experiences. Examples of simple solutions that can be put into place around the workplace include introducing flexible working hours for individuals who need time out to go to appointments, counselling sessions, or just need to take some time out. You can also think about giving your workplace a touch of paint – these could be brighter colours maybe some patterns to help improve mood? And if you can you could introduce fitness classes etc into lunch breaks – the endorphins produced when working out has been proven to be a great way to help alleviate mental health symptoms. Another good idea is meditation classes; mindfulness is something that has really come about in big companies and maybe short break-out sessions to introduce staff to the concept of adopting mindfulness into their daily routine could make a big difference and at little time and cost.
If you would like to talk further about ideas and systems that could help to improve health and welfare at your workplace, please call us. It costs nothing to talk …