What is mental health?
Mental health rules all parts of our lives. When we enjoy good mental health, we have a sense of purpose and direction, the energy to do the things we want to do, and the ability to deal with the challenges that happen in our lives. If you enjoy good mental health, you can make the most of your potential and play a full part in your relationships, your workplace, and your community.
For many of us, work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend much of our time, where we get our income and often where we make our friends. Having a fulfilling job can have a huge effect on our mental health and general wellbeing.
How to recognise mental health problems at the work place?
You might notice that a colleague is more tired than usual. They might make uncharacteristic mistakes, find it hard to motivate themselves, their timekeeping might slip, or they may be short tempered.
If things progress, you might see more obvious signs of a mental health problem in a colleague – outbursts of anger or emotion, absences from work, or not looking after their appearance as they normally would. You may see signs that they have been sleeping less or perhaps drinking more in the evening.
How can companies support their employees and understand mental health?
Organisations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused. Smart employers support employees who are experiencing mental health problems to cope and recover. Standing by people when they experience a mental health problem is not only about keeping hold of a valuable staff member – it also sends a message about the organisation’s values. All employees need to see that their organisation lives its values and treats its people well.
Organisations need to send a clear signal to staff that their mental health matters and being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. A simple way to communicate this is to explain that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health.
Here’s a few things companies can do to support their employees:
- Changing a person’s working pattern to enable them to start later or finish earlier.
- Providing a person with a laptop, remote access software and permission to work at home.
- Excusing someone from attending work functions and client events.
- Check in with colleagues informally in the office to see how they are doing.
- Change of work space – e.g. quieter, more/ less busy, dividing screens
Just remember the importance of having a meaningful conversation with your employee about their needs and really listen to them. Remember to be positive - focus on what employees can do, rather than what they can’t and, on working together and involving people in finding solutions as much as possible.