MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK: How to make mental health a priority in your workplace

It is true what they say when they say ‘your business is your employees’, ensuring that your employees are well, both physically and mentally should be a priority to every founder - and it will be a key factor in the success or failure of your business. 

The workplace can be stressful for many, with heavy workloads, responsibilities, and the feeling that you have to act like everything's okay to seem ‘professional’. These can be leading factors to a decline in employee wellbeing - which is crucial for any business. Employees who are happy in their workplace, are far more likely to produce higher quality work and put in more effort for their team. 

So, how can you make workplace wellbeing a priority in your business? 

Know what to look out for

A crucial part of being able to address workplace wellbeing, is to know how to identify if someone in your workplace is suffering from poor mental health, or is in danger of a decline. This way you can be prepared if it happens, and know the best ways to support said person. 

Ways to identify if a person is suffering from mental health issues in the workplace include;

  • Uncharacteristic behaviours; you may notice someone who is usually punctual turning up late, or the loudest team member becoming quieter all of a sudden 
  • Low levels of engagement; if someone is lacking group participation, or has become noticeably disengaged in their work and social aspects
  • Decrease in productivity; someone may begin handing in work unfinished, late or at a lower standard. 
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns; keep an eye out for employees who regularly miss lunch or refuse to eat with other employees, and those who look increasingly fatigued. 
  • Increased absence; Taking regular, short-term absences for an ongoing problem may be reflective of an underlying mental health issue.
  • Increased anxieties; if an employee begins to question their work or job stability

 Remove the mask 

Removing the mask is a statement that refers to becoming more transparent and vulnerable as if you're taking away a layer and becoming more open. This is a great practice that business owners and management teams can introduce in the workplace. 

Running a successful business comes hand in hand with being a good leader, and being a good leader doesn't just mean you know how to manage your staff, it means that your staff trust you. Authenticity is key in leadership and opening up conversations around problems and not denying their existence can help you become an inspiring leader. If your employees feel that they are able to be open and honest with you about struggles they may be facing, whether it’s in the workplace or in their personal life, then there is far more potential to address situations sooner, get support for your staff, and make them feel safe and seen. 

Have support in place 

If the unfortunate situation takes place that one of your employees is suffering with their mental health, it is important that you have a support plan in place, to help identify the best course of action. 

Firstly, it's important to speak with your employee, to discover if the workplace, or workload is a factor in their struggles, and what impact the workplace is having on them. People are often their own experts when it comes to what they need to adjust to benefit them - whether it be temporary or permanently, so be sure to let them have their say on a solution. 

Focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do. Often the necessary change is one of attitude, expectations or communication – rather than a major change or significant cost. However, effective steps tend to be very individual. For this reason, it’s vital you have a meaningful conversation with your employee about their needs and really listen to them. 

While voluntary and agreed adjustments are supportive, it’s important that people are not treated differently or asked to do things that others are not required to e.g. keeping extra detailed timesheets. Being micro-managed or made to account for all of your time can be counter-productive and damage people’s self-esteem. There are plenty of workplace adjustments that can be made to support said person, including; 

  • Flexible hours e.g. start/finish times. 
  • Working from home, or hybrid working (however you must ensure there are regular catch-ups and that they aren't forcibly isolated) 
  • Time off and phased return to work
  • Time off for appointments related to their mental health, such as therapy and counselling
  • Reallocation of tasks, or deadline extensions 

Having a support system in place will also make employees feel more open to discussing their struggles with you - leading to quicker resolution and support. 

Educate yourself and your employees 

Lastly, like with anything education is key. Being educated on the topic of mental health will help you perform the three topics above better, and will help you create a positive working environment for yourself and your employees - which will ultimately lead to success. 

However, it is just as important to educate your employees on the subject. Through online learning, workshops, and having wellbeing services integrated into your business, staff will be able to identify if another colleague is displaying signs of mental health decline, and know how to deal with it correctly. 

Businesses like Wellity, are a great example of ways you can introduce workplace wellbeing education. Wellity provides a complete solution to managing staff wellbeing. Bringing award-winning training and consultancy services to workforces across the world, Wellity provides organisations with everything needed to improve staff mental wellbeing.  

Mind, the mental health charity has created a guide on how to support staff who are suffering with mental health issues; read the guide here. 


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