The recent Germanwings air disaster has highlighted the issue of mental health in the workplace, and the need for employers to ensure that such matters are right at the top of their agenda. Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz is suspected of purposely crashing the plane in to the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
If one thing is for certain in light of these tragic circumstances, it’s that we can no longer view mental health problems as a taboo subject that can be pushed to one side. Owners and managers in businesses of all sizes need to ensure that they fully understand the impact that illnesses like depression can have on their workforce, and take a proactive approach to fulfilling their responsibilities.
Mental health problems cost employers a huge amount of money every year. Promoting good mental health can have a multitude of benefits. So isn’t it time that you started giving it the careful thought that it deserves? Let’s take a look at some key areas where you can start making improvements and fulfilling your obligations.
Create policies and processes that are supportive, not restrictive
There are always going to be events that take place in an employee’s private life that a business has no control over. From relationship breakdowns to financial worries, there’s a broad spectrum of issues that can impact a person’s mental health and cause them difficulties.
Just because it’s not related to work though, doesn’t mean that managers can’t play a positive role in ensuring that individuals are suitably supported. Think about responsibly managing workloads, creating a positive working environment, and facilitating happy workplace relationships. The benefits of this can be far-reaching, and include increased productivity and morale, boosted staff engagement, and higher staff retention.
Handle personal data sensitively
There may be times when you gather information from your employees about any mental health issues that they may be facing. It may come to light in the recruitment process, for example, if they require any reasonable adjustments to be made so they can attend interviews, or further down the line if the employee needs to take time off work due to their illness.
It’s really important here that you handle the data sensitively, keep it confidential, and inform the individual how the information will be used. Never assume that you have their consent to discuss their problems with third parties, and keep them involved at every stage of the process. This is not only a right of your employee, but a legal obligation that you need to adhere to.
It’s important to promote awareness of mental health problems at work, and of course, communication is essential here. Be prepared to talk about the big issues, and encourage employees to sit down and talk with their managers if they feel like they’re struggling. This is sometimes easier said than done, and can involve a cultural shift, but ultimately will help you to reap the best rewards.
Be sure that your line managers have the skills to handle these conversations. It’s likely that they may need some extra training, and regular refresher sessions are a wise choice when you’re dealing with such a sensitive subject.
Of course, it isn’t possible to discuss all the complexities of mental health in the workplace in just one of my blogs. A cookie-cutter approach isn’t necessarily going to give you the results that you need, especially if there are problems already deeply engrained in your business’s culture.
Want to speak with an HR Expert about how you can make real progress in terms of promoting employee wellbeing and effectively handling mental health problems? We’d be happy to discuss strategies with you, and the practicalities of implementing them. Give us a call today for your FREE 30 minute consultation.