According to the latest figures from MIND, the mental health charity for England and Wales, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue each year. Mental Health America’s most recent report revealed the figures for the USA are one in five adults having issues, equating to more than 40 million Americans.
Unfortunately, many managers are still unaware of how to improve mental health in the workplace. Prospective job applicants are often reluctant to divulge problems. If you are an HR Manager, you need to possess the skills to recognize when an employee is undergoing a mental health situation and appreciate what can be done in terms of providing support.
Staff will only be reluctant to report symptoms if they feel this will incur a negative response. There must be open communication in your organization. The employee has to be in a position to trust their employer will stand by them. Not only will this be an essential part of the recovery process, it will send out positive signals about the company values.
Your organization’s mission statement must engender trust and integrity. These drivers will not only encourage workers to be motivated to perform well, if they know their employers are committed to supporting their mental health along with every other aspect of their wellbeing, this will instill a commitment to your organization.
Managers must send a clear signal that mental health issues will be treated with compassion and that no one should ever feel reluctant to admit to problems out of a misguided fear of being judged. This can be reinforced by composing a mental health strategy and circularizing it around the workplace.
Establishing this positive culture must always be proactive, although an important point to raise is that employees are not necessarily going to be won over simply by reading a circular. Cultural change will take time to embed. But this will occur more quickly if there are clear signs of this two-way communication being encouraged. The channels anyone can take to raise concerns must be well publicized and anyone reporting symptoms should receive assistance promptly.
There should be regular catch-ups and one-to-one meetings. Line managers should feel obliged to raise concerns with their immediate charges, and if the employee still isn’t prepared to admit anything is amiss, the issue should be raised up the line.
Conversations about mental health
Sufferers may be concerned about losing their job by being open. Managers should never feel awkward about inquiring after anyone’s physical or mental health. A conversation could start as innocuously as “You appear stressed today. Is there anything I can do to help?”
It’s vital managers approach questions about mental health in a positive and supporting way. This isn’t necessarily something that can be picked up on any training course. Having the confidence to chat openly with employees, formally or informally, should be part of any manager’s skill set.
How do you detect possible issues? Assuming you know the staff member well enough you can look out for changes in their behavior or motivation, increased smoking or drinking.
Also read: This Is What An Authentic Culture Looks Like
Once the conversation has been opened up, always focus on what the employee can do, not what they can’t do. Encourage them to seek professional advice. Because mental health is recognized as such a widespread issue, there are many steps they can take in terms of medical and therapeutic assistance. What is important is that the employee does not feel they are subsequently being singled-out or micro-managed.
You could suggest ways to deal with whatever difficulties they are having constructively. Issues are often resolved if they can be contextualized. One form of therapy is for patients to write down their thought process, in a diary or a blog, documenting their recovery.
Becoming part of a wider mental health recovery network can be of enormous benefit. Some bloggers have even monetized their web content via a CPA affiliate marketing program. But whether they choose to get involved in online schemes that provide focus and allow them to interact with others in a similar position, or they contribute to existing mental health blogs, you should see this openness as a positive step.
Managing sick leave
All organizations have formal policies on managing sick leave. You must impress on subjects they will be treated equally, regardless of whether their absence is for a physical or mental health problem.
The HR department will be responsible for liaising with the employee during their recovery, deciding on the frequency or nature of maintaining contact with the employee during their absence, then overseeing a smooth return to the workplace. As a manager, your role in detecting a mental health issue, dealing with it, then supporting the recovery process should be ongoing and proactive at every stage of the process.
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