Supporting Mental Health within the Workforce- Everything You Need to Know
Monday 9th May 2022
The start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is a timely reminder of how far conversations about mental wellbeing in the workplace have moved on in recent years, and how there is always scope for further positive change to be made.
With the post-pandemic increase in hybrid and wholly remote working, mental wellbeing ‘red flags’ can become harder for employers to spot from afar, and the risk of employees feeling isolated or lonely (the key theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022) is increased.
Supporting Mental Health within the Workforce
Employers embracing the benefits of hybrid and wholly remote working must also ensure they take steps to maintain a connected and supported workforce. After all, happy and healthy employees are more productive and are less likely to require periods of sickness absence.
There are a number of ways employers can promote positive mental well-being in the workplace:
Employers should strive to implement positive practices, create supportive environments with open dialogue and foster positive team cultures. Particular emphasis on ensuring the workforce is connected and supported is vital for hybrid and wholly remote working roles.
Utilising Existing Resources
Many employers will already have Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) in place. Historically these have been underused and are often only signposted to employees after mental health concerns have arisen. Employers should proactively signpost and normalise the use of support which is already in place, including their existing EAPs, as a routine part of maintaining positive employee mental wellbeing.
Being proactive in spotting signs of stress, anxiety or forms of mental ill-health in the workforce can enable employers to provide help before matters further escalate. Employers can utilise strategies such as identifying mental health first aiders and implementing wider training on mental health in the workforce to great effect.
The Proactive Approach
Even by taking proactive steps to encourage positive employee mental well-being, almost all employers will experience instances of mental ill-health within their workforce.
Being quick to react and being supportive of employees who face instances of mental ill-health is the best way to achieve a positive outcome.
Engaging early with employees when concerns come to light in order to fully understand the issues at play, their impact and any prognosis is vital. Employers will find that a joined-up approach with the employee, management, and where necessary third parties, such as external occupational health resources, is the best way to achieve positive engagement at an early stage.
What are the Potential Consequences?
Employers also need to be alive to mental health issues potentially amounting to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If the threshold of disability is met (i.e., if a mental health condition has had or is likely to have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities) this could trigger additional legal requirements for employers, including considering reasonable adjustments to working practices.
What amounts to a reasonable adjustment will depend on each individual circumstance, but could include adjustments to an employee’s working pattern, a business’s usual disciplinary procedure or an approach to absence management.
Failure to support staff and effectively manage issues relating to mental wellbeing can not only have a negative impact on staff attendance, productivity and retention – but can also result in costly awards in the Employment Tribunal in the event breaches of the Equality Act 2010 occur.