The potential impact of mental ill-health is well known – not least financially. Mental illness is estimated to cost the UK economy upwards of £33 million each year.
Within many businesses, the responsibility for ensuring health and wellbeing of employees falls to the HR team. In smaller companies it may be the owner or managing director. Either way, all managers have a pivotal role to play in making sure employees make use of the support available so that staff can cope with mental health problems.
It is essential that managers engage with mental health
Sadly, a stigma still exists around mental ill-health. Research shows that 8 in 10 employers report no cases of employees disclosing mental health conditions and 30% of employees say that they wouldn’t feel able to talk openly with a line manager if they were feeling stressed.
Managers and HR departments have an obligation to tackle this issue. Research shows that mental ill health isn’t increasing, but employees’ ability to cope with it is diminishing. Evidence suggests that more people are self-harming and having suicidal thoughts.
The Health Insurance Group are urging employers to address the culture of silence and to offer mental health support as standard.
How can managers protect employees?
There are a range of actions managers can take, and green shoots of good practice are emerging in UK workplaces. Here are some recommended steps for employers to consider:
Review the mental health landscape of your organisation
Managers should evaluate the current attitudes to mental health in their organisation. This should include identifying high-risk roles, locations or particular issues their staff are struggling with. Targeted employee surveys are a really effective tool that is being used to do this. The resulting insight can help to identify the most appropriate support.
Equip line managers
It’s critical to equip line managers so that they are able to recognise potential issues and know what to do. A proactive approach and early intervention can prevent mental health issues from escalating. This helps to break down the taboo of mental ill-health and helps managers feel confident to deal with any issues that arise.
Review support that is already in place
There are a range of effective solutions which offer support for a broad array of issues that can influence mental health, including stress management, encouraging fitness, and debt counselling. It is worthwhile for employers to review what is already available in existing employee benefits packages as many employee assistance programmes, group risk protection benefits, and private medical insurance include mental health support services.
Ensure employees are aware and signposted to relevant support
Employers must ensure that support is adequately communicated and promoted to staff. Even the most comprehensive support is useless if employees don’t know about it or feel uncomfortable accessing it. In order to promote its use, managers should be trained to signpost employees to the most relevant type of support.
Brett Hill, managing director, The Health Insurance Group, said:
“All employers have huge potential to support and protect the mental health of staff. It’s really good to see more focus and a more proactive approach emerging. Managers should speak to their advisers about the breadth of support that is available in the market now to meet this urgent need.”
By reviewing company culture, identifying available support, equipping line managers and signposting workers to appropriate support, all managers can play an important role in creating happier, healthier and more productive workplaces.