Making your workplace mental-health friendly

It’s simple business know-how that a happy worker is a productive worker. Employers are responsible when it comes to creating a safe and friendly work environment for their employees. Of course, this needs to extend out to employees coping with mental health conditions as well. Being able to work is a vital component in dealing with mental health problems, as it can help build a crucial element of stability and purpose. It keeps the hands and the mind busy and feeds a better sense of self.

There are a number of ways in which the workplace can be damaging to an employee’s mental health, however. These issues are often easy to spot and simple to fix. But there can be some problems that slip below the radar.

Employees are certainly more switched-on to the benefits of a workplace that is aware of mental health perks. Gone are the days of free food, tea, and coffee being ample workplace perks. Instead, workers want to see employers do more for their happiness, and mental health care was one of the top most sought after work perks going in to 2020.

Take a look at the following steps to help your employees work happier and healthier.

Having a leave strategy in place

Flexitime is great for working appointments around office hours. Using this perk means that an employee can stay on top of the physical health. But what about their mental health? There has been a lot of talk about the use of “mental health days” at work. However, there aren’t many businesses that have deployed a policy regarding it in any official way. This has caused many workers to be forced to use sick days due to burnout or high stress levels, or even a full-blown episode of mental illness.

This is far from beneficial. Doing this can cause employees to feel guilty, as they feel a sick day should only be used when someone feels physically sick. Plus, for an employee with autism for example, the idea of taking a sick day when one doesn’t have any physical symptoms of illness can seem like an illogical option. It would be better for everyone involved if there were clearer policies in the workplace regarding sick days and mental health days. Special leave policies can be useful in this regard. This policy would allow workers to set aside a number of days dedicated to mental health, or for workers with mental illnesses, as recovery days from a bad spell.

With a reported 30 per cent of employees not likely to tell their bosses if they have mental health problems, a discreet policy like this is perfect. Furthermore, calling in sick due to mental health is the fourth most common reason for calling in sick at all in the UK — it’s not just your employees with mental illnesses that would benefit from such a policy!

One business that has adapted such a policy is the Mental Health Foundation. Its employees are allowed two days per year as dedicated mental health days. This makes for less standard sick days being taken, and an overall better feeling of security and care for employees.

Provide a mental health toolkit

Another simple, yet effective way to show employees that their mental health is important to their employer is to offer a mental health toolkit. Whether this is a physical pack of information or an electronic-based hub, a mental health toolkit can contain a variety of useful things, such as resources from local mental health group contact details to charities, such as the Samaritans.

eLearning prospects

A stereotype-buster. This would outline common mental health problems and illnesses and dismiss misinformation in order to encourage discussion and/or seeking medical advice.

For example, OCD has a false stereotype as being purely about cleanliness. As a result, many sufferers don’t even consider the idea that their behaviour may be a symptom of this disorder. Explaining this misinformation could prompt people to seek medical advice for something they would have otherwise dismissed.

A list of easily-made adjustments that employees can request from the workplace

For example, secluded work areas for those who struggle with sensory overload.

Where relevant break-away spaces are

A list of the company’s named (and trained) mental health first aiders. Your first aiders could also wear custom personalised lanyards for more subtle identification. This allows employees to find who they need to speak to discreetly if needed.