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#MHAW19 - How can we support our employees?

Thursday 9th May 2019

It's Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW19

Although mental health problems affect one in four of us, people are still afraid to talk about it.

This week is all about encouraging people talk about mental health so we can better understand and support our family, friends and colleagues.

"Since our first Mental Health Awareness Week in 2001, we’ve raised awareness of topics like stress, relationships, loneliness, altruism, sleep, alcohol and friendship. This year, with your support, we want to reach more people than ever!" (Mental Health Foundation)

Did you know that between 2017 and 2018 that total numbers of people being treated for work related stress, anxiety or depression was 595,000? The total number of working days lost to these types of conditions during this time frame was an astonishing 26.5 million days.

With every job there is bound to be an element of stress involved. But what can be done to limit strain on your health and well being in the workplace? And how do we recognise and support colleagues who may be going through a difficult time?

It’s been reported this week that by encouraging a more open environment we should see a drop in the estimated 300,000 people who leave their jobs annually due to mental health problems, according to the government’s Thriving At Work report, and reduce the associated costs to business which stand at £30.3bn per year, £105bn to the UK economy as a whole, according to the Department Of Health.

General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Frances O'Grady
says "Work-related stress is a growing epidemic, it's time employers and the Government took it more seriously."

"Warm words are not going to fix this problem, managers need to do far more to reduce the causes of stress and support employees struggling to cope. This means tackling issues like excessive workloads and bullying in the office, toxic workplaces are bad for staff and productivity."

With it being Mental Health Awareness week we thought it would be an appropriate time to further explore how as a team at Amsource Technology we can combat and better deal with work related stress and anxiety.

Open culture...
More often than not many employees are reluctant or scared to tell their manager about a mental health problem which is when problems tend to spiral further.

A survey carried out by Mind revealed that 1 in 5 people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed at work and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem have told their manager.

By setting a clear signal to employees that their mental health matters companies are creating a culture where more people will feel that they are able to come to management with their personal problems in the workplace. Many organisations can back this up with a mental health strategy in place. For example: counselling facilities in place, time allowances for exercise classes, team building exercises with health and wellbeing in mind.

By taking proactive steps to create a more open and supportive culture, over time staff should begin to feel more confident to talk to managers about their mental health.

Recognise the signs
As mentioned before many employees feel that they can’t talk to people about their mental health. Even by incorporating an open culture, there may still be some employees who find it difficult to open up. In this instance it’s important for employers and fellow colleagues to recognise the signs.

 According to the Mind website, the main things to look out for are:
-changes in people’s behaviour or mood or how they interact with colleagues
-changes in their work output, motivation levels and focus
-struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems
-appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they
previously enjoyed
-changes in eating habits, appetite and increased smoking and drinking.

If you recognise this in a colleague, what’s next?
Talking to someone about their mental health can be a difficult and uncomfortable one because the person being approached may not want to talk about it. Therefore knowing the best way to approach the situation is essential.

Chose an appropriate place: If the person is a colleague, addressing the conversation out of work premises or out of the presence of other employees is really important.

Encourage them to talk: Let the person know that you have noticed a change in them and that they are welcome to talk to you if they are experiencing any difficulties. By normalising the conversation, it may feel less daunting to approach you in the future about this. Ask simple, open and non-judgmental questions and let people explain in their own words how their mental health problem manifests, the triggers, how it impacts on their work and what support they need.

Don’t assume: In these situations it’s really important not to make assumptions. Don’t guess what a colleagues symptoms may be and why they may be feeling the way they are and how it might affect their job. Many people are able to manage their mental health and perform their role to a high standard but may require support measures when experiencing a difficult period.

Ensure confidentiality: For the majority of people with mental health problems they find it extremely difficult to open up about what they are experiencing. The last thing they want is to feel like everyone knows their problems and that people are talking about them. Confidentiality is essential and the person in question needs to have the upmost trust in you that what is spoken about is not then going to be repeated. Remember people may not always be ready to talk straight away so it’s important you outline what support is available, tell them your door is always open and let them know you’ll make sure they get the support they need.

(Find more tips on the Mind Website here.)

We hear about it a lot in the media, but the main step to combating mental health issue’s is to lose the stigma, especially in the workplace. By encouraging Managers and employees to talk about it more and be more open progress can be made. 
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