Work is intensive
It is widely reported that mental ill health will affect one in four people at some point in their working lives. People with mental health problems frequently suffer discrimination in the workplace and unemployment affects those with long-term mental health disorders more than any other group of disabled people. The term mental ill health covers harmful levels of stress, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder (manic depression), psychosis, obsessive compulsive disorder and is often associated with drug and alcohol abuse and eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa and bulimia).
The mental health charity, Mind found:
- 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
- 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.
Managers do not need to be experts in mental health but an understanding of how to support staff and how to have open conversations about mental health problems will help create a positive culture around mental wellbeing and will create opportunities for staff to feel safe talking about their mental health.
WHAT CAN MANAGERS DO?
- Engage with staff so they understand their own objectives, their teams’ objectives and the organisation’s objectives. This includes giving staff the opportunity to ask questions and feed back their views.
- Give staff as much control as possible over how they deliver their work while ensuring they have the right skills for the job.
- Monitor the workload of staff to ensure what they are expected to deliver is realistic within the timescales and resources available.
- Develop a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged, bullying and harassment is not tolerated and people are treated with dignity and respect. This includes encouraging staff to talk about mental health and creating a safe environment for staff to disclose their own mental health problems.
- Keep members of staff informed of organisation or team changes. This includes providing a rationale for actions and decisions taken.
- Encourage staff to have a good work/life balance including facilitating flexible working where possible. Make staff aware of your organisation’s flexible working policies.
- Have protected time when managers are available for staff to come and speak to them.
- Treat all staff consistently and fairly and provide positive feedback to staff when they do a good job.
- Encourage exercise and social events. Physical activities are shown to boost staff health, team work and mental wellbeing.
- Make staff aware of the internal resources that are available to them such as occupational health or employee assistance programmes.
- Follow up problems on behalf of the team as soon as they arise.
- Employers have a legal duty to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced the HSE management standards which provide information on how to assess and control the risk of stress. They cover six key areas which are the primary causes of stress at work and there is a degree of overlap with the principles of supporting mental health and wellbeing listed above. The HSE has also produced guidance on how to implement the management standards.