What workplaces can do to support employees
There are plenty of “small, inexpensive adjustments,” according to Mamo.
People returning to the office may be facing commuting on busier public transport and also being close to people who have chosen not to wear masks, which may cause anxiety. One way workplaces can support their staff is offering flexible working hours to allow staff to avoid a busy commute. Mind also suggests subsidised exercise classes and generous holiday allowances “can make a huge difference to employees.”
Mamo recommends using Mind’s Wellness Action Plans, available for free online. She said: “Drawn up with your manager, these tailored plans can allow you to identify your individual triggers for stress and poor mental health and outline what can help prevent or alleviate symptoms .”
How to talk about your mental health at work
“You don’t need to be an expert to talk about mental health, but organisations need to make sure employees feel they have the skills and knowledge they need to be able to identify and support colleagues when they are experiencing a problem, particularly for those working remotely, where it can be harder to communicate and spot signs,” said Mamo.
Training courses such as Mental Health First Aid or those available from Mind can provide employers and employees with a better understanding and awareness.
Mamo added: “Because our physical and mental health go hand in hand, we would like to see training given the same priority as physical first aid within workplaces, so that staff know what to do if a colleague is experiencing mental health problems, or a mental health crisis.”
How to talk to your colleagues about their mental health
If you’re worried about a colleague, ask them how they’re doing, listen non-judgmentally, be supportive and signpost to support both internally and externally.
Mamo said: “Try to avoid making assumptions about your colleague’s mental health and how it might impact on their work. People with mental health problems can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace, but some may need some extra support.”
The benefits of prioritising employee wellbeing
According to Mind, organisations that prioritise employee wellbeing have workers who are more productive, loyal, and less likely to take time off sick.
“With poor mental health rife across the nation, supporting staff wellbeing has never been a greater priority for employers,” said Mamo
The legal requirements of supporting mental health at work
Under the Equality Act 2010, employees who disclose they experience a disability, including mental health problems that have substantial effects on your day-to-day activities, are legally entitled to reasonable adjustments.
These could include more regular catch-ups with managers, change of workspace, working hours, or breaks.
Mamo said: “We want employers to create an environment where staff feel able to talk openly about stress and poor mental health at work, including any issues they’re facing – whether personal, professional or a combination.”
How to talk to your boss about your mental health
It can feel challenging to open up to your boss for the first time.
Ideally, your manager or supervisor would create a space for you to talk about any issues you’re facing – personal or professional – by regularly checking in with staff or by including a ‘temperature check’ in meetings to examine the current measures in place to support mental wellbeing.
If your manager doesn’t create the space for you to be able to talk about wellbeing, it can be more difficult to start this dialogue. It depends on the relationship you have with your manager, but if you have a good relationship and trust them, you could meet them one to one to discuss what’s going on. Having someone from HR present will make the meeting more formal, and normally wouldn’t be necessary in the first instance. But if you didn’t get anywhere with the first meeting then it might be a sensible next step.
If you’re thinking of speaking to your boss for the first time, also think about where you want the meeting to take place
If you don’t get anywhere with your managers and HR team, or if you are treated differently, demoted or even lose your job because of disclosing a mental health problem, seek advice from Acas or Mind’s legal line – 0300 466 6463 (lines open Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm or email email@example.com.).
For information and support on staying mentally healthy at this time, visit www.mind.org.uk/coronavirus.
For free resources for employers to help improve mental wellbeing, visit www.mind.org.uk/work.
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