As an employer, one of the most important responsibilities is to protect the health and safety of your employees. Whilst there is lots of guidance on protecting the physical health and safety of employees, one area that is less widely discussed is mental health and how to help employees that may be struggling with their mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Week was 18 – 24 May this year and with the current situation of lockdown, people have not had access to the usual help and support that they would have. There has also been an increase in the number of people affected by first-time mental health issues, as a consequence of lockdown measures. Therefore, now is a really important time to support employees and here are some tips on how you can:
Have regular, open conversations
Many employees will find it difficult to talk about their mental health in a way that that they would if they had another type of health issue. This is even more so the case in environments like the construction industry, where talking about feelings can feel taboo. So, managers should try to take time to speak to their team members openly and build trust that your conversations are completely private, so that they feel more comfortable discussing any issues. Simply asking how someone is feeling and showing empathy and understanding is the best way to keep the open conversations going.
Provide support resources
Some companies have employee assistance programmes with access to counselling but if you check with HR and your company does not have anything like this available, then there are some mental health charities that offer support. So, encourage anyone on your team with mental health issues to get some advice from a company like Mind or to read some of the useful information on their website. You could also encourage them to contact their GP to get some advice and support from a medical professional.
Look for signs of anxiety or stress
Being aware of some of the signs that a person is feeling distressed will help you to start conversations. They may look more tired than normal, be more withdrawn and not joining in conversations as much, or they could have a short temper and get angry sometimes. If you see any of these signs, then it is a good idea to try and have a private conversation to see if you can get the employee to open up. Sometimes getting away from the workplace is better, to make the chat as informal and friendly as possible.
Where possible, you might be able to make adjustments to support mental health, for example, changing the working pattern, or even working on different types of tasks. They might need some time off, to take more breaks, or work less hours to help manage stress levels better.
These are just a few of the key steps you can take to support employees’ mental health and there are some great resources available to use, such as the How to support mental health at work guide from the Mental Health Foundation.