Knowing how to identify and support employees who are struggling with mental health issues can be imperative to employee’s overall performance and attitude at work. As an employer, you need to recognise the signs and ensure your business has the necessary supports in place.
Work life impact on mental health
Work can often contribute to an individual’s mental health. Anxiety and depression are often exaggerated or heightened in the workplace. It is crucial that employers and more importantly managers are equipped to deal with such challenges, if and when they arise. Company-wide policies, programmes and initiatives should be developed for such scenarios.
What to look out for
Mental health issues are not always straightforward. However, identifying someone who is struggling as soon as possible can be the key to helping them recover. The following are some signs that indicate if someone is facing mental health difficulties at work.
- Mood swings or noticeable changes in behaviour
- Lack of clarity or focus at work
- Lack of interest in engaging with colleagues
- Increase in absenteeism or missed periods of work
- Increase in normal drinking or smoking habits
- Drastic change in weight or appearance
How to approach an employee
Simply check in with employees to see how they are doing on a regular basis. Once they are then ready to talk, hopefully you will have built up somewhat of a rapport in which they feel they can open up to you. Privacy is key in these situations, so the first action should probably to set aside some time to catch up one-on-one. Ensuring that the tone of the meeting is kept light and informal will serve to reassure the individual and make the experience less daunting to them.
What to do if an employee approaches you
You should be open and willing to talk with them no matter how big or small the issue may seem. This is also why it is important that there are programmes and initiatives in place to deal with these kinds of situations, as and when they arise. Occasionally, additional guidance or resources may be necessary from HR or external sources.
Supporting staff who are working with a mental illness
You should do your best to accommodate employees with mental health issues so that they can carry out their role as best they can. It is important to keep in mind that mental health illnesses and issues come in all shapes and forms, some recognised, others not recognised.
Ensuring professionals feel heard, recognised and supported at work can make all the difference to how they are feeling and also retaining them within the company. If an employee doesn’t feel acknowledged or supported at work, then chances are they may look elsewhere. Additional supports or flexibility that you could incorporate into an employee suffering with mental illness’s working life:
- Allowing them more regular or longer breaks
- Flexible working arrangements such as working from home
- Regular catch ups and one-to-one meetings to check in
- Arrange regular support for staff members even when they are away from the office, such as regular contact and phased office returns