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Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace

Published: Wednesday 15th May 2019

Most people suffer from some form of mental health issues at one time or another in their lifetime. Not only does this affect their families and loved ones, but it can affect their work colleagues too. As recruitment experts, at Zoek, we’re crucially aware of the importance of promoting positive mental health in the workplace, for both temporary and permanent workers, and with Mental Health Awareness Week taking place between 13th and 19th May, this seems an apt time to highlight some of the key issues for both employers and employees.

Colleagues supporting mental health in the workplace

Mental health issues affect us all

In the past, workplace health initiatives tended to focus on physical health. There was a real stigma attached to mental health issues. Fortunately, things have improved with a greater awareness of the importance of addressing mental health in the workplace. Employers understand too that they are legally required to provide a duty of care to employees. This duty of care applies equally to mental health, since many related illnesses come about as result of the impact of work, whether that’s due to stress, an unmanageable workload, or conflict in the workplace.

Light bulb with words associated to supporting mental health

A major contributor to absenteeism in the UK

Recent media interest in the subject has led to a number of new surveys, one of which has found that mental health problems are the biggest cause of absenteeism among UK workers, costing businesses an estimated £12.7 billion annually. Yet people are still reluctant to talk about their own mental health issues, which is why it’s so important to have initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness Week.

Simply by recognising that the event is taking place means that employers and workers will engage with each other on the issues, and take a positive step towards creating a working environment where people are able to talk openly about emotional and mental health.

Empty office chair and desk due to absenteeism

What can be done in the workplace?

One of the best things for employers to do with regards to their care of duty towards employees is to have sensible policies in place when it comes to work-life balance – in order to reduce stress in the workplace and prevent burnout. Workloads should be reviewed regularly to ensure that employees aren’t struggling and that their concerns are met. Flexible hours and the opportunity to work from home can really help here. For instance, it has been proven that workers with the longest commutes are at greater risk of depression.

Employers can promote awareness by encouraging access to educational resources and programs, such as mindfulness. Additionally, all managers should be trained in identifying and dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. For employees, small activities such as making sure you don’t eat your lunch at your desk, taking a walk or going to the gym at lunchtime, can all help lower stress levels and reinforce a healthy outlook.

Team meeting in the workplace discussing mental health issues

Mental health is the responsibility of us all

Mental health can have a serious impact on a business and its workers. It’s important that everyone plays their part in order to remove the stigma associated with it and foster a positive mindset in the approach to mental health at work. Likewise, companies who invest in the mental health of their people and foster an open dialogue about those issues will create a positive workplace where people want to work.

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