Here is a brief guide on how small businesses can support mental health illnesses at work
Build your own awareness on the different types of mental health conditions
Whilst the mental health topic is spoken about much more openly compared to 10/15 years ago you would be surprised to hear that there are still a large group of people and small business owners in particular who have considerable misconceptions on this subject. Some people don’t realise that anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are mental health problems that can affect a significant number of people in the workplace. Understanding some mental health conditions can help. Below we list some of the more common mental health problems you may come across in the workplace as described by the Federation of Small Businesses in their guide for small businesses (please note this list is not exhaustive):
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear that can be associated with something that has happened, about to happen or happen in the future. Everyone feels anxiety in their life, be it before starting a new business or sitting an exam, however, some can find it very hard to control their worries. Anxiety can become a mental health problem when someone’s worries are very powerful or long lasting, or if they affect their day to day life. People with anxiety problems may also avoid certain situations or find it hard to control their worries.
Depression causes people to experience a long lasting low mood that can heavily impact day to day life. Anyone can experience depression. People with depression might feel down, hopeless or numb and may have difficulty sleeping, or sleep too much. Some people may think about taking their own life. Depression can be caused by a number of different events in a person’s life. It can occur after a physical illness, a bereavement, unemployment, family problems even pregnancy. But not everyone who experiences depression will identify a particular cause.
Everyone has their own individual personality that makes them who they are. Situations, different people and other factors will change the way we act, think and feel. If someone has a personality disorder, they may think, feel, behave or relate to others in ways that can cause problems in their relationships and affect how they cope with everyday life. Some people welcome the diagnosis of personality disorder, but others find it stigmatising and unhelpful. It’s important to be sensitive to how someone feels about their diagnosis and to focus on what support they need.
A phobia is an extreme fear or anxiety which can be triggered by a number of factors, including a particular situation (being in crowds), or an object (germs), even when these factors don’t present a real danger. Someone who has a phobia may even start to feel anxiety by just thinking or talking about it. Everyone experiences fear but it becomes a phobia when that fear is out of proportion to the danger or if it has a significant impact on how someone lives their day to day life.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. People with OCD have obsessive thoughts. These are repetitive or distressing thoughts that the person cannot control. Even if they are irrational, the person may find them very hard to resist or ignore. These thoughts can make them feel very anxious. Someone with OCD will have compulsions – actions that they feel that they must repeat to feel less anxious or to stop the obsessive thoughts. This could be the simple task of checking they have their keys in your pocket. These thoughts and compulsions can be very difficult for them to manage and can have a big effect on their day to day life.
Take the lead in talking about mental health in the workplace
- Introduce a wellbeing policy and practices into the workplace
- Conduct regular 1:1, supervision or manager meetings with your staff
- Have an open door policy on mental health and make yourself available if you staff want to talk to you about any problems or issues they may be experiencing
- Give presentations on the topic to demonstrate your openness and to educate your workforce
- Encourage openness with all on the mental health topic
Read all the free resources available to you to increase your knowledge and understanding
Here are just some of the free resources available to you:
Mental Health at Work – A guide for small businesses https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/resource/a-guide-for-small-businesses/?read=more
Public Health England
Attend or Deliver in your Workplace Mental Health First Aid Training
There has been a huge increase in the uptake of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training by employers and business owners.
In essence, MHFA is the equivalent of physical First Aid training and provides participants with the knowledge and skills to recognise the signs of poor mental health so that the employee can be guided to the appropriate support that is available. This could be through self help or professional services.
Through workshops, presentations, group work etc, participants will learn about common mental health conditions that people may experience whilst at work, how to recognise the signs that a staff member may be experiencing these conditions, how to listen and communicate with someone who may be experiencing a mental health problem and then how to signpost that person to the correct support.
Speak to/engage your HR team
At HR Elite we have considerable experience in supporting business owners and managers with employees who may be experiencing a mental health problem. Whilst we are not trained therapist we can offer advice and guidance on what activities can be introduced to aid prevention but to also assist staff when they do experience and mental health problem. We are also experts on the law in this area and in addition to the supportive measures we can also advise on your responsibilities and obligations under disability legislation which mental health falls under.
Engage an Employee Assistance Programme or Occupational Health Service
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential workplace service that employers pay for. It can help employees deal with work-life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems and many other problems people may experience in life and it helps workers remain productive at work.
An EAP helps employers because it can create a happier and more satisfied workforce and also gives staff a confidential place and experts to speak with when going through personal problems.
Occupational health Services are able to assist with advice and guidance in keeping people well at work. Through getting their advice your employees should find themselves in a healthy and safe work environment with the risks of work-related ill health being managed or stamped out appropriately.