Time to talk – how can we manage employee wellbeing?

28 February 2020

There is an active interest in employee wellbeing and a growing understanding that looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Without the ability to see it, talking about it can be essential. In the wake of the Time to Talk Day, which took place to raise awareness and encourage people to talk about mental health, and the tragedy of Caroline Flack, the movement to be kind and more mindful continues to grow.

As the feelings of wellbeing are fundamental to the overall health of an individual, it’s become essential for businesses to understand more about this area. Statistics are proving the impact of mental health - for example, someone is made ill by stress at work every two minutes (TUC). Alison Pay, the managing director of Mental Health at Work (MHAW) said:

If we can understand the difference between mental health, mental illness and the gap in between, we can start to remove the stigma around the language, which is the first step in opening and normalising conversations.”

It’s crucial to understand the issues surrounding mental ill health, and the risk factors, before taking steps to deal with it. There are a range of issues causing anxiety, stress and depression. However, it can also be a result of a challenging and pressurised working lifestyle. For instance, long hours, extensive travelling and demanding workloads. 

There is also a strong business case for managing mental health. If failing to manage an employee’s mental health, organisational problems such as high sickness absence, low employee morale and reduced productivity can occur. 

What can employers do?

  • Encourage line managers to play a key role in supporting employees who have a mental health condition and provide guidance and training to managers on how to do this effectively. 
  • Consider offering benefits such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
  • Ensure absence management policies and procedures relating to mental health support the timely referral of employees to specialist help where appropriate.
  • Gain senior-level buy-in into the mental health strategy to foster a mentally healthy workforce.
  • Introduce and embed mental health first aid throughout the organisation.
  • Maintain regular contact with long-term absent employees to prevent feelings of isolation and develop action plans for an effective return to work.

Proactive employers can develop an overarching mental wellbeing framework with resources for managers to use to support employees in varying ways, depending on what they individually need. Looking to raise the profile of mental health at work goes hand in hand with this. Employers can look to national campaigns and networks such as Time to Change. 

What trends can we expect to see in workplace wellbeing? 

The 2017 Thriving at Work review was commissioned by the government into how employers can support the mental health of employees. It found that 300,000 people lose their jobs every year to mental health problems. The review suggested setting out core principles and standards to which all employees should commit. The recommendations involved mental health at work plans and routine monitoring of staff mental wellbeing.

For a discussion around your approach to wellbeing or any concerns you have with your employees and their mental health, contact Frankie Davis