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Taking proactive approach to mental health at workplace

As with many workplace problems, a proactive approach to mental health is by far the most effective way of dealing with it, as prevention seems to be better than cure.

It has been estimated through raised awareness campaigns about mental health issue,indicating one in six working age people are suffering from mental illness. Mental illness affects each person differently and can significantly impact on the individual, their family, friends and work colleagues. Poor mental health impacts individuals' overall health, their ability to work, and how they engage with others. The health of workers is at the top of the business agenda as modern businesses are not just duty bound to offer a safe physical environment, employees should be able to thrive in a workplace that is also supportive of their mental health, not detrimental to it.
Adopting a positive and proactive approach makes good business sense too as countless research studies have shown that companies with effective employee engagement and wellbeing policies perform better, so it’s a good strategy for the bottom line too. In recent times there has been a push for organizations to be proactive in the way they manage and promote mental health within their workforces.

Company’s culture need to positive towards mental health

The best businesses have recognised that it’s no longer acceptable to focus solely on the management and prevention of physical injuries. These businesses have acknowledged that providing support and resources for their employees to help manage their mental health is just as important as their physical health. Mental health conditions are not automatically considered disabilities under the Equality Act but they can be, depending on the level of impact they have on the employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Alternatively, they may become disabilities over a period of time as the impact they have grows or simply lasts for longer.

Is workplace the catalyst for mental health problems?

Every company has busy times when the workload increases and staff need to do more that usual, however this should be a temporary state of affairs not a permanent requirement to work at full pelt. Putting too much pressure on employees can cause mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression; it can also exacerbate underlying issues that were being managed until that person is pushed too hard.

Bear in mind too that as an employer, you should proceed with caution when faced with a member of staff who is absent due to stress - particularly with regard to absence management as this can be closely linked with disciplinary proceedings. Address the individual’s particular personal and medical situation with compassion as this is more likely to result in a good outcome and will also protect your company from a potential claim if the situation was subsequently perceived to have been handled badly

Absenteeism may be a signal

If a serious mental health problem is present in workplace, this may come hand in hand with long absence or absences. When someone takes a lot of sick time, it may signal something is wrong, and the employer can start a conversation with the employee. It is an opportunity for an employer to reach out, at least informally, and make sure everything is OK with that person.
Without prying about what the problem might be, the employer can make sure the employee is aware of all that’s available through the company. It might be an employee benefit program, an employee assistance program, or insurance. It can be an appropriate time to start a dialogue and get the employee working back toward good health and recovery at the earliest possible time.”

What can be done by Organization

As mentioned at the outset, there is no time like the present. So, take this opportunity to make positive steps toward supporting mental health at workplace. Organization can:

  • • Remind all employees about the resources available to them relative to their mental health.
  • • If time off seems excessive, talk to the employee and let him or her know the company wants to be supportive. Ask if the benefit programs are adequate, and offer a list of resources they may not know about.
  • • Periodically bring in experts to speak to employees about mental health issues. Keep the conversation alive and it may lose some of its stigma.
  • • Make clear what the standards of behavior are in the workplace, perhaps by creating and gathering signatures on a document. You don’t want anyone to be bullied, either an individual with a mental health issue or those around him or her.

Practical steps to promote mental well being

  • • Introduce a dedicated counselling service or helpline for staff
  • • Offer training on mental health issues
  • • Encourage use of positive language when describing mental health
  • • Create a culture of support and openness so individuals can seek help without fear or stigma.
  • • Review the absence policy and keeping-in-touch arrangements.

The Bottom Line

Being proactive about mental health in your organization does not mean spending lots of money. It is about attitude, education and awareness, all of which can be improved without significant financial investment. There are also lots of practical steps you can take to reduce the impact. For instance, include mental health awareness in your health and safety programs.
Try to foster a workplace culture where employees feel involved, valued and have their achievements acknowledged and their personal development are prioritised. Ensure they have at least some control over what they are doing at work, even for the most routine or mundane tasks where possible. Promote a good work-life balance by accommodating flexible working where you can, and by making sure employees are not pressured (or do not feel pressured) to work long hours.

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