In light of the 2nd Annual Time to Talk Day taking place on Thursday February 5, Jayne Carrington, managing director of Right Management Workplace Wellness, offers the following advice to organisations looking to support employees with mental health issues…

“According to the BITC, one in four adults in the UK will experience a mental health condition in any given year. At the same time, ill mental health at work can cost UK employers around £26 billion per year, which can have crippling effects on an organisation. For many, talking about mental health and having the courage to ask for support can prove incredibly beneficial, which is why de-stigmatising the subject is so important. Many employees, however, still find it hard to discuss mental health issues with their employers.

“We know that taking active steps to intervene on employee wellbeing positively affects employee resilience levels and opens the door to positive discussion. Therefore, this ‘Time to Talk Day’ (Thursday, 5 February), we’re encouraging employers to think about how they can better support employees with mental health issues:

  • Consider arranging a ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’ workshop: In many cases, employees are unaware of the support their organisation can offer. Workshops like these can help to raise awareness of, and de-stigmatise, mental health issues, particularly for close colleagues of such employees.
  • Work closely with GPs and Occupational Health departments: The needs of employees with severe mental health problems may best be met by a joined-up approach involving multiple agencies. GPs and Occupational Health departments can help line managers in particular to address sensitive areas and make the working environment safer and healthier for employees with poor mental health.  It’s important to keep the employee involved every step of the way – we use the phrase “nothing about me without me”!
  • Be approachable and encourage employees to talk: Developing a ‘We can talk’ culture around employee wellbeing and making time to listen is extremely important. When employers are more receptive and understanding, employees will feel more valued, cared for and have confidence that their problems can be accommodated for in the workplace.
  • Consider factors that can make a difference: Questions such as ‘what are we doing that encourages good health at work?’ and ‘what are we doing that creates bad health at work?’ are important. In many cases, slight adjustments in the workplace can help a person to do their job better and feel more focused. Employees should be at the centre of these discussions, in order for employers to help meet their specific and diverse needs.”