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1 in 6 people will have suffered with a mental health problem within the last seven days, according to the Mental Health Foundation[1]. What’s more, one in four people in the UK will deal with a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime. As employers, it’s vital we’re aware of mental health issues and are equipped with the tools, resources and knowledge needed to support our teams, both in and out of the office.

The importance of a supportive environment

Mental health is a broad term, meaning there’s no one-size-fits-all solution which workplaces can apply but, the 2017 ‘Thriving At Work’ report provides a useful core framework which can be adopted and adapted by employers of all sizes. These recommendations cover:

  • Create a documented mental health at work plan which promotes good mental health, and the support services in place for those who need them.
  • Encourage open conversations around the subject of mental health, from the recruitment stage onwards.
  • Put measures in place which favour a healthy work life balance for all team members.
  • Schedule regular mental health check-ins, so team members can speak with their line managers about anything which they may be struggling with.

Many of these measures are easily adapted to a virtual environment for hybrid and distanced teams, ensuring no-one is prevented from accessing the support they may need due to being physically distanced from the office.

Recognising the different types of mental health issues

As an employer you have a duty of care to your team which requires you to support their physical and mental health. Part of this responsibility is being able to recognise the different types of mental health issues that your employees may be struggling with.

Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are common amongst the working population, but other types of mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder can all impact on how someone feels, behaves and deals with their workplace responsibilities.

What does the law say?

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability, whether seen or unseen, and requires you as the employer to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate that person. An adjustment is considered reasonable if it’s affordable, doesn’t infringe on the health and safety of another person and is practical. When applied to someone dealing with a mental health issue, this could mean offering more one-to-one support, adjusting working hours or providing access to a trained counsellor or other professional.

Reducing work-related stress

HSE’s Management Standards can help you to reduce stressors and lower the levels of work-related stress. The Management Standards cover a series of conditions:

Demand: workload, shift patterns or the workplace itself

Control: how much input each individual has on how their work is carried out

Support: what resources are provided

Relationships: positive working to avoid workplace conflict

Role: clearly defined positions

Change: how changes are communicated and deployed

Working through these conditions can help you to pinpoint sources of workplace stress, take steps to limit their impact and promote improved mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 09 – 15 May, 2022. Find out how your business can get involved here.

[1] Source: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-uk-and-worldwide

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