Only one in four managers is trained in mental health awareness

Ciara Morrison looks at addressing mental health in the workplace and how businesses can prioritise a healthy work-life balance.

Around 91% of managers agree that their actions affect their staff’s wellbeing, however, only 24% of managers have received any training in mental health. 

Within every business, there will be those who suffer in silence to the point that control is lost and the very act of getting out of bed becomes utterly overwhelming. Employees are still reluctant to share mental health information with their managers or bosses, seemingly for good reason.

The stigma associated with mental health, being treated unfairly, becoming the subject of office gossip or compromising their employment terms are all legitimate fears.

It is important for managers to know how they can support their staff as they work through challenging times. Is there access to an employee assistance programme, for example?

According to Deloitte, one in every six employees in Great Britain suffers from mental health issues, with mental ill-health being one of the leading causes of absence from work in the UK. Poor mental health not only leads to burnout, fatigue, irregular moods, stress, anxiety and reduced focus but eventually takes its toll on relationships and physical health as well.

Furthermore, the average person spends 90,000 hours of their life working, and poor employee mental health can be due to factors internal or external to the workplace. Without effective management, this can have a serious impact on physical health, productivity and more.

Factors at work that can impact mental health:

  • Conflicting work and home demands
  • Excessive workload
  • Lack of recognition
  • High-stress environments
  • Poor leadership

It is important for managers to know how they can support their staff as they work through challenging times. Is there access to an employee assistance programme, for example? All too often these support mechanisms are deployed when a situation is already at an advanced stage.

Educating the workforce on the availability of such programmes where they can find support in a confidential and respectful manner, will help to address personal challenges before they become overwhelming.

Here’s what businesses can do:

  1. Minimise the stigma: A study from Business in the Community shows, only 53% of employees feel comfortable talking about mental health issues like depression and anxiety at work. Instead of making employees feel like liabilities or burdens, employers need to take active steps to encourage conversations around these issues. Taking a mental health day or asking for support around mental health issues should not impact an employee’s reputation and how they are treated at work.
  2. Pay attention: The lack of training and sensitivity only works to perpetuate the culture of silence around mental health and wellbeing at work. Companies should be working to combat this by monitoring employee stress, encouraging communication and taking active steps to increase knowledge around the issue.
  3. Be more flexible: There are several ways to boost employee engagement and happiness in the modern workplace. Around 70% of employees want a say in when and how they work, and a growth in flexible working shows more businesses are responding. Introducing a flexible working option is one of the ways businesses can prioritise their employees’ personal needs while benefitting from their productivity boost, too.
  4. Introduce mental health initiatives: It is crucial to increase employee awareness of mental health at work, support employees at risk and take steps to support those suffering from mental health problems. Education is key, and strategies need to be tailor-made to suit each business and its needs. Aside from increasing workplace happiness with perks, time off and better communication, businesses need to look at long-term policies which advocate for better treatment for at-risk employees from every tier of the organisation.
  5. Manage via a coaching approach: Investing in a coaching approach has shown clear improvements across all areas and improved trust between managers and employees. Getting this balance right enables employees to speak about their levels of stress, their worries about their role and more.


About the author

Ciara Morrison is head of HR and talent at Instant Offices.


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