One in six of your employees suffer from a common mental health problem
Did you know that by some estimates, one in six UK employees suffer from stress, anxiety or depression? Even if you only run a small business, you aren’t immune. With a payroll of less than 20 staff, this could mean two or three of your people.
And that ultimately takes its toll on your bottom line. Across the UK, 9.9 million working days were lost in 2014/2015, costing businesses more than £17 billion.
Unfortunately, this problem is on the rise, and often, business leaders aren’t equipped to deal with it.
How can you help?
Is it really your business if your employee is suffering stress because of what’s going in her life outside of work? Or what can you do, realistically, in today’s busy workplace, to ease the pressure of meeting deadlines and targets; and are these contributing to the stress itself?
And this assumes that you are even aware of the problem. Many employees still fear the taboo of discussing their mental health, especially with their boss.
Its good to keep talking
It’s very important that you do address this issue. Naturally, if you care about your employees, you would be talking to them regularly and making short-term adjustments to deal with stressful life events that might affect their work.
But what if the problem is more serious than that? In the worst case scenario, failing to address a mental health problem could land you in front of an employment tribunal under disability discrimination legislation.
Address the root causes
The number one cause of workplace stress is insecurity and a lack of control. Uncertainty over job status, constant change, lack of resources and poor management are all key triggers too. Invest in good communication and management practices to tackle the problem at its root. Ensure you and other managers are not micromanaging, and work to tackle bullying and harassment.
How you know there might be a problem
Keep an eye out for the common symptoms of stress. These include:
- Taking more time off than usual
- Greater use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs (prescription and illegal). (Download a free drug and alcohol policy template here)
- Increased irritability, poor concentration, reduced productivity
- Deteriorating personal or work relationships, including bullying behaviours
- Becoming more ‘emotional’, moody or over-reactive to what others say
- Starting to behave differently that’s out of the norm
- Changing of eating and sleep patterns
- Physical reactions such as sweating, palpitations and increased blood pressure
- Feeling negative, depressed and anxious most of the time
- Feeling trapped or frustrated … and believing there’s no solution
The most noticeable effect can be a change in performance.
As a leader, make it normal to have conversations about mental health. Talk openly about your own experiences of mental health, if you can. Chances are you or someone you know someone who has suffered, and you can talk about what helped the recovery. You will set a powerful norm.
- Set up mentoring and buddy schemes
- Have regular performance feedback sessions, talking openly about what is going on inside and outside of work.
- Encourage senior leaders and respected colleagues to speak out about their own mental health battles
- Educate the team, using resources available from any major mental health charity. These are free and up to date. Often, representatives will visit the workplace to train managers on how to deal with stress.
- Invest in employee wellbeing and health initiatives. Consider having a lunch time yoga class or meditation session. Introduce financial planning education into the workplace.
- Introduce flexible working. Change your mindset from how long your employees sit in the office to what they deliver. Within reason, it doesn’t matter where they do this!
Ask yourself, do your staff have anyone to talk to about their mental health?
If not, consider investing in an employee benefits program that helps employees with wellbeing, physical and financial health, as well as saving them money on household expenses and treats.
Looking after your employees both inside and outside of work really does pay dividends creating a productive workforce.
Read more of our best ideas on how to create a productive, engaged workforce on our blog.