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Business, taken personally.

Mental health in the workplace: how to be a mindful employer

Posted by Jessica Thompson on 30th May 2017

The importance of looking after your staff’s mental health has never been so high on the agenda following the most recent national mental health campaign with the ‘#oktosay’, together with the much publicised Royal family support of the ‘Heads Together’ campaign over the last few months.

But how can employers, with possibly hundreds of workers, ensure that their staff are happy in the workplace? After all, a happy worker is generally much more productive. For example, recent research stated that ‘happy people were 12 per cent more productive than “normal” people’.

Now that all seems very ‘black and white’, but there are many questions to be asked, like what is ‘happiness’?

  • Leaving at 5pm on the dot? Or staying later and being treated to an office takeaway?

And also what are ‘normal people’?

  • People who skip in to work with a huge smile on their face, or those who have the occasional moan, but are generally quite content working away?

There is no final answer to those questions, but what there is, is a concerning trend in the effect of mental health on businesses and their staff in the UK.

ACAS research suggests that mental health problems cost employers in the UK £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence. This can have a huge impact on how the market develops. As employees feel under increasing pressure to offer a quick service and abide by tight deadlines, teamed with employers perhaps paying little to no attention to their employees mental health, a lack of productivity and increased staff absences will only worsen, with one in four of us suffering mental health problems during our lives currently.

Of course, employers have a general duty to look after their staff, but they also have legislative duties to be aware of.

Mental health issues may be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, which makes it unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled person less favourably because of their disability. Mental health issues which may be considered a disability under this provision are those that have a substantial and long term effect on a person’s ability to carry out their day to day duties. This can include for example, severe depression.

It is vital therefore for employers to grasp mental health and wellbeing issues, and to ensure that the worrying statistics above are not repeated.

But what can you do?

Here are our top tips for caring for your staff:

  • Cater for mental health in your employment structure. Have a health & wellbeing policy. This will not only makes your business look much more approachable to your prospective employee, but it also makes clear to them that they are working in an open and caring business.
  • Offer a ‘safe place’. You can offer a space in your premises for people to go to, whenever, for them to relax and unwind if they are feeling particularly stressed.
  • Do something fun! Offer yoga lessons, meditation or have fruit bowls round the office. This makes a huge difference to the working environment, as it brings people together and also offers some genuine health benefits. We at Endeavour do all this and it is appreciated by all employees.
  • The biggest skill an employer can have is the ability to communicate well with their staff. Always have an ‘open door’ policy for employees so they can feel comfortable in discussing any issues they may have with you, so that you can assist and ensure that they feel valued.

By having policies and procedures that focus on mental health as part of employee wellbeing, businesses can help remove the stigma around mental health issues as well as ensuring that their employees are happy and therefore more productive, making it a win win situation.

If you require assistance with any aspects of how to deal with staff wellbeing in your business, please contact our specialist employment team that can not only help you draft your health & wellbeing policy, but who can also offer you advice on how to deal with Equality Act issues if they have unfortunately arisen.

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