A 2018 poll of 74 organisations taking part in Mind’s Workplace wellbeing index 2017-2018 found that 58% of employees said their mental health was good or very good, while 13% stated that their mental health was currently poor or very poor. However, only around one in four of those who reported poor mental health had informed their employer.
We want employers to create a culture where staff feel able to talk openly about emotional wellbeing. Employees struggling with their mental health should be met with support and understanding, rather than facing stigma and discrimination.
It is important that managers and supervisors create space for staff to regularly check in and talk about problems they are facing; a sensitive, common-sense approach is helpful for anyone worried about a colleague’s mental health.
So, what actions can organisations take to help start the conversation?
Firstly, employers should encourage people to talk. Start by speaking about general wellbeing and let people know they can talk if they need to. Everyone’s experience of mental health problems is different, so focus on the person, not the problem. Explore what support they might find helpful.
Next, avoid assumptions about what symptoms an employee might have, and how these might affect their life or their work. Many people can and do manage their condition and perform their role to a high standard.
Also, respect confidentiality. Sensitive information must not be passed on unnecessarily, not least because breaching trust could negatively impact an individual’s mental health.
Staff may not want to open up straightaway, but if employers follow these key actions, they will at least know they can talk when the time is right. Small gestures, like thanking people for their work, making tea or coffee and asking about plans outside of the workplace, can make a huge difference too.
Many employers do not know where to start, but doing and saying nothing is the worst thing to do.
Emma Mamo is head of workplace wellbeing at Mind