Recognising signs of mental health struggles in employees and how to help
20 Sep 2023
Emails pinging, phones ringing and deadlines looming. These everyday stresses, and the home lives that sit behind them, mean that workplaces can have factors that could impact your mental health.
With one in four people in the UK facing mental health problems in the workplace, it’s important for employers to foster a positive workplace culture – one which acknowledges and supports mental health issues.
Here, we explore mental health at work and how employers can take the support they offer to the next level.
How can the workplace affect people’s mental health?
Since the pandemic, hybrid and remote working has almost become an expectation from a job role. While there are many advantages to people working from home, such as increased leisure time and a better work-life balance, there are also downsides. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can creep in when people aren’t in regular contact with others, and working remotely can exacerbate this.
Likewise, burnout is all too common in the workplace. Pressures of deadlines and volume of work can leave someone feeling physically and mentally exhausted.
What should employers look out for?
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems experienced in the workplace – and it’s not always easy for employers to spot signs that someone is struggling. Here are a few key signs that could indicate an employee needs help:
Increased absence: Perhaps the most obvious sign that someone is unwell, but they may hide their mental health struggles behind physical ones. In fact, almost 13% of all sickness absences days in the UK are due to mental health conditions.
Decreased productivity: Feelings of anxiety or depression can significantly affect how someone performs in their job. The cost of ‘presenteeism’ – where employees work even if they’re struggling – can be taking place in business and having an impact without anyone recognising that it’s happening.
Uncharacteristic behaviour: Lack of sleep, constant stress or worrying, can all have a knock-on effect to a person’s day to day life. Is your employee more irritable than normal? Are they over/under-eating? Are they withdrawing from social situations?
What support can employers offer?
Whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal and moral responsibility to support their staff. Many UK organisations support the retention of their teams with care initiatives and interventions, including:
Create a positive mental health culture: Implement and communicate a clear mental health plan, promoting the importance of good mental and physical health for all employees and outline support available.
Upskill managers: With hybrid working on the increase, line managers need upskilling in how to spot signs of mental health problems – managing in a hybrid environment is very different to managing face-to-face.
Check-in with employees: Regularly check-in with the mental health of your teams. This could be through questionnaires, workshops or surveys, or at a more personal level through one-to-ones between line managers and their teams. Whichever method, confidentiality should be made clear to encourage openness and honesty.
Make resources available: Make information, tools and support easily accessible to all employees and actively promote how and where they can access this support before they need to speak to someone directly. Some employees may prefer to take steps by themselves without involving management, or feel more comfortable speaking to someone outside of the business. For instance, the Able Futures mental health support service offers free mental health support to anyone in work, and free advice and resources for employers, and a high quality employee assistance programme like CiC Wellbeing can provide confidential support whenever its needed
Help employees stay connected: Hybrid working means that many employees don’t see their colleagues as often. Strengthen a team spirit and sense of community through team days, joint calls and activities.