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Katy Winship

08 May 2017

Supporting Your Teams With Mental Health Awareness

This week is Mental Health Awareness week and we're raising awareness of mental health in the workplace with this week's blog.

The number one reason for employee absence is now cited as poor mental health therefore it makes sense for employers, if not just from a business perspective, to invest in the wellbeing of their employees. In order to retain valued, capable and hard-working workers then mental health needs to be a core company objective of every organisation. It's the responsible thing to do.

Removing the stigma

It's quite simple- we all have minds and we all have bodies, just as our bodies can be ill so can our minds. But there is still a stigma of discussing mental health issues. It is gradually being removed by increased awareness and champions such as Princes Harry and William who have normalised the discussion of mental health issues. As we spend the majority of our week there it is very important that we are mental healthy and happy at work.

Looking after the workforce

Many people with mental health issues, let's face it that's most of us at some point, like to go to work to 'keep themselves sane'. Many people find that working is good for their health and rather than just providing a source of income it also provides human contact, routine, structure and a sense of purpose.

It is important that employers look after their staff and put procedures in place in order to support their employees and change the thinking of both management teams and employees. They should take heed from Richard Branson who believes that "clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients." Just in case you have been living under a rock Virgin, Branson's company, has a net worth of over £5 billion and has approx. 71,000 employees - so it's safe to say the man knows what he is talking about and is worth listening to.

Mental health in the workplace - for employees

Your work might not be suffering but YOU are and perhaps you need to seek support. If you are finding it hard to make decisions, are increasingly avoiding stressful/ confrontational situations, finding it difficult to concentrate, feeling agitated and restless, feeling tearful and your dietary habits are affected (i.e. you have started drinking more and you are eating less/ more) then these could be signs that you need to be offered support inside and outside of the workplace.

If your workload is making you stressed then don't be afraid to speak up. You shouldn't be having sleepless nights.

If you feel you are being bullied or don't have a good relationship with your colleagues you should also speak up- disciplinary procedures will be in place against harassment. If it is a case of that you just don't get on with your colleagues then perhaps you can request a transfer.

What I'm trying to get at is - if you don't feel supported, communicate this. If you feel you can't talk to your boss, speak to your human resources department or trade union representative if you have one. If they are a company worth staying at and they value you they WILL support you.

If, however, your company currently has no support procedures in place or you would prefer not to speak to your employers you can find other types of professional support and advice, whether that's through online social media support groups, specialist organisations such as Mind and The Blurt Foundation or seeking counselling through your local GP or private counselling.

Mental health in the workplace - for employers

Any manager worth their salt should take time to consider each member of staff:

If you notice:

• Changes in behaviour such as those listed above (dietary habits, indecisiveness etc.)

• Unexplained absences

• A drop in the standard of work

Then maybe consider a course of action on helping them stay a happy and productive member of your team.

You can help them in many (and some subtle) ways:

• Spend time on a one-to-one basis with your employees to make them comfortable

• Provide an appropriate place for confidential conversations.

• Form a wellness action plan

• Peer recognition/ perks

• Consider flexible working/ the possibility of working from home to take strains away

• Encourage them to take a break

• Implement buddy schemes

• Arrange regular team-bonding/ building days

Mind's Workplace wellness Index

Mind, the mental health charity, has released a new wellbeing index for workplace health. The Workplace Wellbeing Index is designed to help employers work out what they are doing well and identify gaps where they could support their employees more with mental health issues.

Market leaders such as Deloitte, HMRC, the Environment Agency, Jaguar Land Rover and PepsiCo have all taken part in Mind's Workplace wellness Index and have come up on top in the Index. They have all been rewarded recognition from Mind by practises that every company should consider i.e: employee assistance programmes, counselling, staff support network or informal buddying systems.

So why not encourage your business to follow suit? Be like Branson.

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