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Mental health matters – a guide

In light of various news stories around mental health in the workplace, Kevin Friery, Clinical Director, Right Management Workplace Wellness offers advice to employers on how to effectively approach mental health and wellbeing at work

In light of various news stories around mental health in the workplace, Kevin Friery, Clinical Director, Right Management Workplace Wellness offers advice to employers on how to effectively approach mental health and wellbeing at work.

At Right Management, we’ve amassed good, robust data going back to 2001, which indicates that consistently year on year, 85 per cent of calls made through our EAP programme are around stress, anxiety and depression caused by factors outside of the workplace. Despite this, a vast number of organisations are still failing to take responsibility and address workplace wellness in their business. This is in part why Iain Duncan Smith recently urged employers not to abandon sick staff and instead, take action to promote positive employee wellbeing.

It is true that many organisations feel it is not their place to speak to employees about personal problems that could be affecting their work. Those that do don’t always know how to approach it in the best way.  It is now more important than ever for businesses to rethink their strategies around wellbeing at work. This is why we’ve pulled together our top tips on how to do this:

Train managers to be supportive and mindful – It isn’t just about buying a product or course, building internal competence and confidence and developing managers’ personal skills is about enabling them to have open, honest and compassionate conversations around workplace wellbeing. After all, the way managers behave and interact with employees can make a real difference to engagement and productivity and when done properly, it can truly support business success. The key is to focus on the potential return on investment of wellbeing initiatives rather than viewing them as a ‘nice to have’ expenditure.

Get up and walk around –Managers who aren’t afraid to talk informally to their employees to gain an understanding of what’s going on with teams and direct reports will be able to intervene and respond appropriately and achieve better engagement levels. Average management is waiting for problems to emerge and subsequently responding to them. Great management is noticing such problems at an earlier stage and being committed to improving dignity at work.

Take a flexible approach – Managers and business leaders who are able to take a flexible approach to time can have a huge impact on the workplace. For example, if someone is feeling stressed and anxious because of factors outside of work, empowering them to take some time out – even if it is just half a day – to sort it out will mean they can come back to work refreshed, revived and ready to make a valid contribution to the business again. The ‘give-get’ culture works well – allowing an employee to leave early or come in later, demonstrates that the employee is a valued and respected to make a responsible decision.

Ask staff what they want – We often find that employers think they know best and are quick to take action without properly researching what employees want and need from the workplace. In fact, organisations often take it upon themselves to address employee wellbeing by offering up gym memberships, free massages, acupuncture sessions and the like, but in some cases these can fail to make a difference. Thinking outside the box is key: what do employees really need – or what questions should I be asking to get them to articulate it?  This also improves employee engagement and a sense of inclusion.

Measure the impact of wellbeing initiatives – The old phrase ‘what gets measured, gets treasured’ couldn’t resonate better in mental health – which has too long languished in hazy definitions and a lack of clarity. Measuring the impact of interventions you make on productivity and engagement will help you to determine what is working and what is not and enable you to take the appropriate action. “We live in a world of financial solutions and ROI should be a consideration; if you can demonstrate the value, the investment is more likely to be sustained.

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