Future of work, Wellbeing

5 ways to tackle mental health issues in the workplace

Teodora Penkova

How many times a day do you ask“how are you”, and how many times do you get asked the same question? Most importantly, how many times were you honest when answering it? 

We often tend to hide how we really feel because we don’t want to be a burden, or we don’t want to be seen as weak, or because we don’t want our managers to think that our mental health affects our performance at work. 

But here’s the thing: the more we talk about mental health, the bigger chance we have to end the stigma around it. 

Being able to speak openly about how we really feel is vital, and line managers and HR teams can help with creating a safe space where people feel comfortable and heard. This is where to start from:

1. Regular check-ins 

We recently spoke about the benefits of having regular 1-2-1s. They might not be the most efficient way to collect feedback from the entire organisation but they help you to stay aligned with your teams and prevent larger issues from festering. 

Benefits of having regular one-to-ones:

  • Boosting employee engagement and building mutual trust 
  • Identifying issues early so employees can get the support they need on time
  • Ensuring wellbeing is routinely monitored 

How employers can help:

  • Encouraging managers to have open conversations with their employees about how they’re doing
  • Make sure employees know they can talk about home as well as work issues
  • Maintaining regular communication with all staff, especially those working in isolation, for example with monthly team meetings and regular phone catch-ups. 

Our advice: Ask people how one-to-ones can be tailored to suit their particular needs and make sure that everyone feels comfortable requesting time outside of the normal schedule. 

2. Policies and practices that support staff wellbeing

According to research, poor mental health costs employers in the UK between £33 billion and £42 billion a year. Mental health difficulties are also the biggest cause of sickness absence in the country so it really pays off to invest in a wide mental health strategy

Wellbeing should be a priority for an organisation and mental health policies need to be well-thought-out and communicated clearly with the entire company.

Things to consider when writing a wellbeing framework:

  • Health and safety – health and safety at work isn’t just about preventing people from getting ill or injured. It’s about promoting positive wellbeing, open conversations, and building trust. 
  • Working time – long working hours, no breaks, and tight deadlines are some of the reasons people feel stressed at work. Make sure that everyone takes time off and don’t forget to lead by example
  • Sickness absence – if someone needs time off due to their mental health, it’s important to take the request seriously and be supportive. It’s also important to check regularly on them during their absence. 

Our advice: Ensure that there’s a wellbeing framework in place that it’s inclusive and it supports people when they’re going through difficult times. 

3. Train your line managers

The way you manage and support your people when they’re going through challenging times can shape the way they cope and recover. 

Line managers are the fastest route to your people and when it comes to how they can improve things it’s all about giving them the right support and training. 

What organisations can do:

  • Provide training on mental health and stress management – including how to spot the sign and how to have supportive conversations with their teams. 
  • Have clear guidelines for managers on managing mental health issues 
  • Encourage and support positive manager behaviours

Our advice: Set your line managers for success. Give them the right training and motivate them. After all, they’re the ones having the closest relationship with your staff and can notice when something isn’t quite right. 

4. The work environment

Even though many of us work from home, the work environment is still something that leadership should take into consideration. Noise levels, temperature, and light can significantly affect wellbeing. Make sure to ask people how to improve the office space.

What organisations can do:

  • Office layout – open plan offices are great for collaboration and innovation. However, it is important for organisations to integrate space for quiet, privacy, and concentration in their office plans.
  • Office furniture – allowing employees flexibility in office furniture and working stations is associated with reduced sickness absence and greater job satisfaction. The evidence suggests that it is important to consider ergonomics, including adjustable chairs and desks.
  • Lighting and temperature – both lighting and temperature have significant impacts on physical and psychological wellbeing in an open-plan office, and managers should be proactive in addressing issues highlighted by staff

Our advice: Design office environments to accommodate the varying tasks and the specific needs of the workforce considering privacy in open-plan offices, without compromising collaboration.

5. Provide external support

Often managers won’t be  aware of all the ways they can help their staff. Make sure that everyone understands how mental health is managed in the workplace and what support is available. Your organisation could also signpost to external sources of information and advice. For example, the Mind Infoline has details of available local services, and employers can also explore partnering with Local Minds – there are over 150 across the country providing a range of services to meet the needs of the local community.

Our advice: People may feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health with line managers or colleagues and this is where a survey can help. Regular wellbeing surveys give you a better feel for how well people are coping and for any employees that might require extra support.

 

We, at Qlearsite, understand that wellbeing is important but we also know that it can be hard to measure. That’s why we created Qlearsite Foundation – a fast and easy way to track wellbeing and to define workplace wellbeing initiatives in your organisation.

 

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