THE BLOG

Managing Mental Health at Work

22/03/2013 18:55 GMT | Updated 22/05/2013 10:12 BST

Right now, one in six workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. This can stop people performing at their best. Too often, employees are scared to tell their manager about a mental health problem and managers are unsure how best to support staff when they do.

Smart employers know that organisations are only as strong as their people - they depend on having a healthy and productive workforce. They also know that people perform better when they feel that they are able to put everything into their job; when they are confident, motivated and focused. Good mental health underpins this. By positively managing and supporting employees' mental wellbeing, employers can ensure that staff perform to their full potential - and this allows the business to achieve peak performance.

Mind's Taking Care of Business campaign aims to change attitudes across all sectors, by showing that open and supportive workplaces benefit everyone - employees, employers and the bottom line. I have been leading the campaign since its launch in 2010 and I'm proud to be working on such an important issue. We all have mental health, the same as we have physical health, but it's not talked about in the same way. That's not good enough. It is still so taboo, especially in the workplace.

Starting a conversation about mental health doesn't have to be difficult. At Mind, we can show you how to support your staff and prioritise mental wellbeing to increase employee engagement and productivity. Often it is good people management practices such as encouraging a good work/life balance or offering flexible working arrangements that can reduce stress and boost engagement levels. Regular one-to-one meetings build trust and give employees a chance to raise problems at an early stage.

Leading this campaign certainly informs the way I manage my busy team of four staff at Mind - mental health at work is very much on the agenda. Some of the tools I use include:

  • Having a Team Temperature Check. At each team meeting in addition to talking about recent work undertaken and what's coming up, we also talk about how we're all doing, whether there are any pressure points or issues that I need to be aware of. By talking about it as a team, it normalises the issues and brings these conversations out into the open.

  • Using monthly catch-ups effectively. I ask my team members how they're doing and then we review the past month - what went well, what didn't, what was challenging and why. We will then agree steps to address any issues. I also ask for feedback about the support I have given - what was helpful and what wasn't. Therefore, I am creating the space for them to raise any issues and I am maintaining an open relationship with them.

Another approach that I use with my team is developing a Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with each of them. The WRAP is actually a healthcare tool which identifies someone's specific symptoms, triggers and support needs, giving the person control over their treatment. In a work context, this tool helps to capture workplace triggers, early warning signs that someone is experiencing a problem and what is helpful for the individual to do and what is helpful for me to do. So you have a tailored system of support in place with mutually agreed steps that will be taken if someone starts experiencing a mental health problem. This then gives me the knowledge and, in a way, the permission to start a conversation about this if I spot the early signs.

For me, supporting the mental health of my staff goes hand-in-hand with managing their performance and progress.

Your staff are your business. Sign up now for our free webinars and resources. We'll show you simple, inexpensive and practical ways to improve mental wellbeing and employee engagement. Steve Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation will be speaking at Mind's webinar on 22nd March on Managing mental health in the workplace.