Mental health in the workplace

Supporting your employees with their mental health has never been more important; here are some ways to do so.

Bella Marsden

Fri Jan 15 2021

Today, more employers understand that supporting their employees with their mental health is good for not only the people within an organisation, but the business itself.

Mental health problems are common, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year in the UK (1). And according to mental health charity Mind, poor mental health is now the number one reason for staff absence.

Studies also suggest mental health is being exacerbated by the pandemic. Our State of The Nation survey of 2,000 people found that over 25% of people said that their mental health had worsened due to the pandemic, due to factors such as a lack of social interactions and anxiety about the virus. Having a good mental health plan in place is particularly important now when our normal way of life has been disrupted and we face increased uncertainty and stress due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It may seem challenging when thinking about how to address mental health at work. Here are some things an organisation can do to support their employees with their mental health.


Prioritise mental health in your wellbeing plan

With the importance of mental health being emphasised in recent years, an employee wellbeing plan should incorporate both physical and mental health. Have a mental health plan in place that all relevant members in your organisation have access to. This should include an action plan for those experiencing a mental health problem with policies for leave, back to work, and reasonable adjustments.

A comprehensive wellbeing plan should also include policies for managing workplace conflicts and bullying and should promote wellbeing support, such as counseling or therapy. If you need some help, mental health charity Mind has a comprehensive guide on how to implement a mental health plan in the workplace.


Encourage communication

One of the most beneficial ways to support someone with a mental health problem is to have open communication. Ensure your employees know they can be open and that what they discuss with you or other members of the organisation will be confidential.

Having regular one-on-ones between managers and their team members is a great way to nurture an open, understanding work environment and will help staff to feel they can open up with what they are struggling with.

Another way to ensure your employees feel supported with their mental health is to get their input on what would be most beneficial to them. Regular surveys, audits, and focus groups are all effective methods to get input and feedback from your employees to ensure your mental health plan is most beneficial to them. Asking your staff for their input will also help them feel valued within your organisation, which will in turn help to boost company loyalty.


Staff training

Training key staff members is a great way to ensure people within your organisation are well equipped to support those struggling with their mental health. This could be for HR and line managers, as well as senior staff.

Appropriate training for your staff will set them up to:

  • Spot the signs someone is struggling with their mental health
  • Have supportive conversations with staff
  • Manage work conflicts and bullying
  • Provide ongoing support to those with mental health conditions
  • Make appropriate adjustments to ways of working to best support staff with a mental health problem


Good working conditions

There’s plenty of evidence that shows our physical environment has a significant influence over our mental state (2). And having a good work environment is particularly valuable as this is where we spend the majority of our waking hours.

Ensuring your staff have a good workspace is especially important now many people are working from home. Having a comfortable chair, desk and good lighting is the first step. Things like pictures, candles, and plants are also a nice addition to a workspace and can enhance mental wellbeing; plants have been shown to improve mood and reducing stress and anxiety (3,4).

As well as making sure staff have an appropriate working environment, there are other ways to ensure good working conditions. These include:

  • Good work/life balance
  • Not working overly long hours
  • Flexible working
  • Exercise, lunch breaks, and getting outdoors
  • Taking annual leave


Spotting signs of a potential mental health problem

It is important staff members are aware of some of the signs a person is suffering with a mental health problem, and this should be part of their mental health training. Some indications a person is struggling with their mental health include:

  • Increased absences
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour – talking less, getting agitated or stressed, appearing more erratic
  • Low engagement or productivity
  • Appearing distracted or unengaged
  • Appearing tired or lethargic

If a colleague says they are feeling suicidal, or if you suspect they are considering taking their own life, it is important to encourage them to get help. They can contact the Samaritans straight away by calling 116 123 for free 24 hours a day. Or they can text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line.

If you are concerned for someone's immediate safety or the safety of others, call 999 and ask for the police or take them to an A&E Department.