Supporting mental health in the workplace is now more important than ever. In a poll of over 2,000 UK employees and managers, it was found that 56% of employees had struggled with their mental health or wellbeing at some point and 80% said it impacted their work. More than 67% also admitted they didn’t tell their employer.
When employees struggle with their mental health, it affects the business, as well as individuals, as employees may be less productive. So it's in your organisation’s best interests to take employee mental health and wellbeing seriously. We’re taking a closer look at supporting mental health in the workplace and why employees don’t speak up.
- Reasons why employees don’t speak up
- How to help employees talk about their mental health and wellbeing
- How to support an employee suffering from mental health issues
Reasons why employees don’t speak up
In the same survey, 66% of managers said they wouldn’t know what to do if an employee told them they were struggling with their mental health or wellbeing. Another 49% said they didn’t know how to support mental health and wellbeing more generally in the workplace.
There are various reasons why employees don’t speak up - from not knowing the process for airing problems to feeling ashamed. There are many things managers and employers can do to create a speak-up culture, where those struggling with mental health will feel comfortable asking for help.
Stigma and promotions
Despite the steps society has made in creating a speak-up culture, many employees still perceive mental health to be stigmatised in the workplace. These employees fear admitting they have a mental illness as they think the employer may feel they won’t cope with a more responsible role or management position.
Perception of colleagues
Alongside a fear of the perception of employers, employees also fear how their colleagues will see them. Employees want to feel like a valued member of the team, but by admitting to a mental health condition to employees, they may feel like they’re showing a sign of weakness.
Unfortunately, even the best organisations can fall victim to gossiping, which keeps employees from speaking up. Recent research from Heads Together found only 2% of employees would feel comfortable talking to their employer about their mental health. People experiencing mental health problems need to know it will remain private when they speak up.
How to help employees talk about their mental health and wellbeing
The first step is creating a workplace culture where speaking openly about mental health is encouraged. This needs to come from leadership. Hold training days, distribute resources, acknowledge world mental health days and let your employees know you care about their mental health and wellbeing.
Mental health is a very personal issue, so as an employer, it’s your responsibility to make sure employees know from the outset that anything they come forward with is completely confidential. It may even be beneficial to invest in reporting software that offers anonymity.
Anonymous reporting gives the person the confidence they need to tell someone about their wellbeing. Many organisations feel hesitant to use anonymous reporting, as they believe it may be bombarded by reports that they can’t do anything about. Luckily, this isn’t the case. This kind of software has been used in universities that have found the number of reports they receive is manageable, and that there is actually lots of change you can make off the back of anonymous reports received.
How to support an employee suffering from mental health issues
Firstly, you need to invest in good, up-to-date management training. If your managers don’t know how to support their teams, maintaining good mental health in the workplace will be difficult. It’s also vital you have resources at hand to provide to employees should they ask for help. Many organisations invest in great Employee Assistance Programmes that can provide external support and even counselling.
Team building and getting out of the office are great stress relievers, so planning regular social activities for all staff will contribute to better mental health. This could be anything that enables employees to leave work at the office and enjoy themselves - ask your team what they want!
Not being able to arrange in-person activities right now means it's essential to check-in regularly with your employees, especially since employee happiness and engagement is one of your main priorities. The current world we live in is a tough time for everyone, so employees need to know your organisation is there for the support they need.
During COVID-19 restrictions, this could be a Zoom games night or a virtual Netflix viewing party. Although we have to stay apart from each other during this time, there are many activities that can be done online to help people stay connected.
When an employee does approach you due to poor mental health, it’s essential you’re prepared to listen to their struggles. At this point, you should provide resources to them that will help them understand what they’re going through and what can be done to help this.
Going forward, create an ongoing personalised mental wellbeing plan for the individual. Ensure this includes regular one-to-ones so you can regularly see how they’re doing and provide assistance as and when needed.
To make discussing mental health and wellbeing the norm in your organisation, it starts with creating a culture that makes everybody comfortable speaking up.