Alex Staff Agency

Mental health in the workplace

Career: tips and trends

Nowadays we are interested not only in our physical well-being, but also in the state of our mental health. At the same time, modern people want to maintain mental well-being not only by their own efforts, but also to maintain it in the workplace. And people facing mental health issues especially appreciate support for their condition at work.

But what is mental health?

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual can cope with everyday stressors (tension, high work performance, stress), work productively, reach his or her full potential, and help businesses develop and perform at the highest level. It should be noted that we are talking about the mental health of employees not as a set of mental illnesses and problems, but as a comprehensive well-being of the psychological state of the person and the maintenance of its stability.

Mental well-being in the workplace is relevant to everyone these days. Mental health support is no longer just a nice little thing, but a necessity. And for your employees to continue to feel good and work effectively, a responsible employer should think about maintaining the mental well-being of their staff.

But how can mental instability appear at work?

Previously, it was widely believed that mental problems were caused solely by a person's personal circumstances, and that the employer should not interfere in a person's life, and it was not his responsibility to support the mental well-being of the employee.

But surveys and research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development have shown this view to be wrong. More than 54% of employees who participated in the study said their poor mental health was caused by a combination of problems at work and outside of work, 7% said only work was the cause of their mental problems, and only 37% of participants said their mental health was only due to personal problems outside of work.
But if we're talking about work, what work-related factors can harm an employee's mental health? In fact, there are more than meets the eye.

Performance pressure
When an employer expects employees to work at peak performance all the time, it puts undue pressure on people. Subsequently, this causes additional stress and emotional exhaustion.

Poor communication and management practices
Communicating with employees in a welcoming and engaging way reduces the likelihood of mental problems. Conversely, poor communication and processes create tension in the team and worsen the mental health of the staff.

Low levels of support for employees
If a manager does not help employees to solve problems and overcome obstacles, employees may lose motivation to perform tasks and feel overwhelmed by emerging issues.

Inadequate health and safety policies
If an employee is afraid of encountering an accident at work, or if his workplace is poorly lit or he works with hazardous materials without protection, he will be stressed, which means mental problems await him.

Job insecurity and the risk of dismissal
When a crisis strikes, people face mental problems more often than usual. If an employee does not have confidence in the security of his workplace and is afraid of losing job it is very harmful to his mental health.
As we can see, the prerequisites for mental problems are quite numerous. But is the problem really that serious? Let's turn to the statistics for today.

Recent research makes clear: the extent and consequences of poor mental health at work are only growing. For example, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development revealed in 2018 that poor mental health is the most common cause of long-term absence from work in the UK. The study goes on to note that stress-related absences have increased in nearly 40 percent of organizations.

According to a study by Mind, a mental health charity in the U.K., one in 10 employees rate their current mental health as poor or very poor. Meanwhile, less than half of employees believe their employer supports their mental health in some way.

Moreover, according to the latest data, one in six workers in the United Kingdom has a mental health problem, such as anxiety, depression or stress. In the United States, the figure is even higher, with 2020 data showing that one in five adults there has a mental health problem.
We can see that the mental health problem is becoming a massive one that cannot be ignored. But why is the mental health of employees an important factor for employers, and how can a lack of employee mental health support affect business?

One Mind, a leading nonprofit brain health organization, estimates that by 2030, business losses from employee mental illness in the United States will reach $16 trillion, far outpacing losses from heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The world of work is inexorably changing: issues related to the mental health of the staff are things that can significantly affect the company's revenue and success right now. Let's consider each business-relevant item separately.

Employee engagement
Absence of fear to tell about his problem to the employer or even to get time off, increases motivation and loyalty of the employee to the company, which further leads to increased efficiency of the staff and allows to achieve sustainable results in work for a long time. The CIPD estimated that annual business losses in the UK due to lack of employee engagement, coupled with other factors of mental problems, amount to between £33 and £44 billion.

The CIPD found that poor mental health is now the number one cause of long-term absenteeism (four weeks or longer) in the UK. The audit company Deloitte estimates that the cost of absence per employee ranges across sectors from £1,119 to £1,481 a year in the private sector to £1,551 to £1,878 in the public sector and about £8 billion total in the UK economy each year.

Some people with poor mental health don't take time off from work and come to work when they're not feeling well, which can have a big impact on their ability to work in the process. And this, along with absenteeism and sick leave, also costs employers quite a bit. Research institutes estimate that the annual cost to employers of absence due to mental health-related presenteeism (people coming to work while sick) exceeds the cost of absence estimated at £17-26 billion each year in the UK.

Staff turnover
Statistics show that people with long-term mental health conditions are twice as likely to lose their jobs as people without mental health problems. That said, the cost of hiring a new employee is always significant, and the higher the position, the higher the cost, not to mention the training and development costs that are lost when the employee leaves. CIPD research also claims that employee turnover is causing UK businesses to lose about £8 billion a year.

Conflicts at work
Research shows that the most common consequence of conflicts at work is that people see them as stressful, which emphasizes the need for employers to foster a healthy work environment with zero tolerance for bullying. Because as a result of such conflicts, the effectiveness of not only one particular employee, but of the team as a whole can decrease, which will inevitably lead to a decrease in company profits and additional costs. For example, conflicts can lead to an increase in employee absenteeism, which means the cost of employee absenteeism will exceed £8 billion a year.

Corporate governance and employer brand
Employers who fail to manage mental health at work risk damaging their employer brand through potentially high-profile and costly litigation, lawsuits over unfair dismissal or discrimination, and breach of contract. Conversely, well-developed employee mental wellness management can increase an employer's attractiveness among professionals, enhancing its brand and reputation in the labor market, which will then lead to an influx of valuable talent that will drive business growth.
We highlighted above that for any modern organization and for business in general the risks of great losses due to mental problems of employees are enormous. But before building a system that positively affects the mental wellbeing of the staff in the company, it is necessary to understand – who is responsible for the mental health of employees and who should implement the changes?

Ideally, everyone in the organization is involved in maintaining and improving mental wellness in the company, but let's identify a few responsible individuals:

Human resources (HR)
HR is responsible for providing advice and support to managers and employees. They also lead the work of analyzing employee well-being and monitoring sickness absence in the organization.

Senior leaders
Leaders play a key role in creating change by ensuring that solid processes, checks and action plans are in place and regularly monitored.

Line managers
They are responsible for assessing the mental health of their employees. They can do this through regular team meetings, quarterly mental health audits and regular one-on-one conversations. Managers should get regular feedback and take appropriate action.

They are responsible for making timely requests for support when they need it and raising any concerns with their line manager, human resources or occupational health. All employees, regardless of their position in the organization, should also try to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
We were able to assess that ineffective management of the mental health of employees at work brings with it a range of factors that negatively impact an employer's business. But the question arises: How can a company create a mentally healthy workplace for its staff? Let's take a closer look at this question.

The basic idea for creating a mentally healthy workplace is the need for strong leadership and a positive, transparent and clear organizational culture that values employees. Employers – especially line managers – should take the first step, make it clear that employees' mental health is valued, and that people can feel confident that disclosure will lead to support, not discrimination.

There are three important steps an employer needs to take to achieve this goal:

1. Promote the well-being for all employees
2. Tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems
3. Support employees who are experiencing mental health problems

Promoting well-being

To unlock employees' potential and increase their productivity in the workplace, it is imperative that managers adopt an approach of open dialogue and effective management.

Encouraging employee work-life balance, developing good communication, supporting flexible work practices, and encouraging positive work relationships and social activities are also important criteria for promoting well-being in the workplace.

The cases of 2 organizations collected by the CIPD show how positive this method is for the company.

But if you, as a manager, don't want to put off transforming workplaces until you develop a whole strategy, you can implement the first changes now:

Hybrid work schedule
It's okay if your company doesn't work remotely. Often employees have to show up in the office and it's difficult enough to put these processes online. But arrange for employees the opportunity to work remotely at least a couple of days a week, it will have a significant impact on their loyalty and mental state for the better.

Additional days off
Employees often give up or cut back on vacation to be more effective in their jobs. If this practice is repeated, mental health will be compromised. Normalize the practice of taking one or more days off when necessary. And adding extra days to vacation time will make working for your company much more attractive to other candidates.

A place to rest
On days when employees work in the office, they should also be able to take breaks during the day. Organize a relaxation area within the company, where the Staff can have a break, relax and relieve stress during or after work.

Health insurance with mental health benefits
Many forward-thinking companies provide their employees with health insurance that covers a certain list of services. Include free mental health counseling there; this will prevent many employee problems in the beginning.

After these first but so important steps, you will be able to develop a strategy for your company to maintain the mental well-being of your employees and make their workplace the most mentally healthy it can be.

What can you do to support the mental well-being of your employees immediately?

Tackling the causes of mental ill-health
As we found out above, work has a significant impact on the mental health of the staff, so how managers behave is critical and is a determining factor in what kind of mental health environment the company will have.

The following steps will help you significantly reduce the causes of possible damage to mental health, and if you work systematically, eliminate them completely.

Workload management
The manager has enormous responsibility for employee concentration and productivity and must distribute the workload evenly. To do this, determine workloads, prioritize tasks, discuss deadlines and tools for completing tasks with the staff, and ask for regular feedback to capture overloads in a timely manner.

Regular department meetings and one-on-one meetings with the supervisor
Regular supervision or one-on-one meetings are critical to building trust and giving employees the opportunity to raise issues early on. You can also schedule team meetings offline or online to discuss emerging problems and issues within the team to avoid future conflicts.

Workplace assessment
Carrying out an employee workplace assessment will allow you to understand what factors are affecting the mental health of the staff in the workplace and what needs to be done to improve the situation. Workplace assessments of employees are performed by specialized labor protection organizations, but the basic characteristics can be checked by the company itself: whether there is no risk of injury to an employee at the workplace, whether the equipment is functioning correctly, whether the workplace is sufficiently lit, and so on.

Creation of a culture of open dialogue
In order for a manager to learn about the problems and difficulties of his team members, it is necessary to develop a culture of open dialogue. Open communication happens in a team when its members are empowered to share their thoughts without any fear of repercussions. It won't work from the first planning session, but it's a trend that needs to be cultivated with practice.

Effective managers help employees cope with workloads, create opportunities for training and coaching, and promote a culture of open dialogue – all of which contribute to higher levels of mental well-being and employee engagement.

Regular communication with supervisors or one-on-one meetings are critical to building trust and giving employees the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns as they arise.

Conducting workplace assessments can provide a clear picture of the state of the organization as a whole: what factors are affecting employees' mental health in the workplace and what needs to be done to improve the situation. A report from Wedlake Bell senior associates tells us that this is an effective method against employee mental problems.

Supporting staff members with mental health problems

If mental health problems are suspected or detected, the manager should make immediate contact with the employee, which should be maintained if the person takes sick leave. How you respond to an employee experiencing a mental health problem is a fundamental test of your organization's values.

Trust and honesty are key drivers of engagement – employees need to see that the organization is living its values and, with respect to its employees, the company is true to its values and gives them the support they've been promised. Mind, a mental health charity offers us a whole guide on how to help employees with mental problems in the best way possible for them and the company.

So what should a manager do if his employee feels mentally unstable?

Start an open dialogue
If mental health problems are suspected or disclosed, the first step is to establish honest, open communication with the employee. The employee should not be afraid to speak out about his anxiety. That way you can find out about the problem quickly and avoid the lingering effects of the employee's illness.

Ask about the possible cause of the concern and think of solutions to address it
Reschedule the task or address it to another person if the employee feels stressed about it. Talk to the team if there is a conflict inside. If the cause of the employee's problem is work-related, you need to pay special attention to dealing with it.

Show your support
Suggest that the employee take the day off or not postpone a planned vacation and go on vacation as soon as possible. Pay for additional sick leave or arrange for the employee to have a free consultation with a health care professional. Show the value of the employee and his or her well-being to your organization.

Keep in contact
Discuss your communication with the employee in advance and don't lose touch with that person when he or she goes on sick leave. Let it be clear that everything is all right and that you are looking forward to his or her recovery and return to work in a positive state. This approach will greatly increase employee loyalty to the company in the future.

But supporting people in the mental well-being part isn't just about increasing the organization's profits and retaining a valued employee – it also sends a message about your organization's values to employees and external audiences. Organizations that take the Staff Support approach find that they reap the rewards in the form of loyalty and commitment from all employees.
Dealing with employee mental health is a long-term and systematic process that will require some effort and attention at the outset. But even the first steps in this direction can significantly increase business efficiency and productivity and avoid impressive costs later on.