In recent years mental health has finally become a more recognized topic and is slowly becoming more openly discussed in multiple fields. With this new development, you as an employer may be curious about what this means for the workplace and how you can accommodate better to your workers. Currently, in the UK alone 70 million workdays are lost due to mental health reasons, costing businesses £2.4 billion a year. Whether or not all of these are due to the workplace itself, there are still plenty of improvements to be made in all working environments to lower this number. To begin, it is important you stay open minded and take the time to self educate about mental health, even knowing and understanding the basics will help you understand or perhaps even relate to your employees better. Melissa of Modern Mind Group suggested reading “This Book Will Change Your Mind About Mental Health” to better understand how mental illness should not limit anyone and that with the right tools and education, anyone can excel in their job. So, here are 5 ways you can begin to accommodate mental health in the workplace; 1) Communicate Now, this may seem incredibly obvious or even simple but maybe that’s why communication gets swept under the rug so often. No two people are the same, and so no two people cope with their mental needs in the same way. There will be no better strategy than talking to your employees and/or co-workers about their personal needs, wants or concerns. Creating that safe and open environment is a key step towards a healthy workspace where employees can feel heard and cared for which in turn will bring great work ethic to the business. So what exactly are we communicating? Commonly mental illness will have a great effect on stress, anxiety, motivation, etc. This may require changes to be made in the psychical environment, which includes things such as providing regular breaks, ensuring a quiet workspace, or even something more along the lines of offering reserved parking. With these, keep in mind, the goal should be to minimise unnecessary stress surrounding work, be sure to listen to your employees’ concerns and find the correct solution. Multiple workplace adjustments are discussed in the Nhs Health At Work Article, with more on legality and such. 2) Be flexible with how things work It’s no secret that we all have our own ways of working. We all learnt this back in school when we had to figure out how we study best, some of us worked better in a silent classroom, some worked better at home with music and some benefited more from studying in groups. This doesn’t stop being a factor when moving to the work world and although not all jobs are going to be able to cater to every small individual need, it is possible to at least input some flexibility into things such as workplace and schedules in order for workers to work in their best environment available which is shown to improve work performance, understandably. 3) Supervision strategy Mental illness can be a real battle some days, so it’s important to be prepared for the worst at times. Panic attacks for example can be a common symptom and it’s important the workplace can have a strategy in place to deal with these or any similar episodes. Not everyone knows the proper way to deal with a panic attack and as you probably guessed, there is no one magic method that works for everyone. In preparation, it may be best to come up with one solid solution although others may cope just fine with a few things put in place to suit their needs such as readily available ice and/or water, somewhere comfortable with no or few people, simple calming distractions which can be as small as a fish tank or even an on-site support animal. Currently, most articles and research on the benefit of support animals are being done within schools but I believe we could all agree this would just as easily apply to the workplace too. Here at the alliance of therapy dogs, you can learn plenty about support animals where they specifically discuss autism. 4) Be aware of physical demands Mental health can come with all types of physical demands in completely different ways, some are as small as needing to fidget and others may be letting out stress through physical activity. I’ve already seen places such as the Mariott Hotel accommodate physicality in general by offering their staff a free gym membership in their own gym. Although not every organisation will be able to provide this, it’s a great idea to encourage physical wellbeing as it does help tremendously by releasing endorphins and such. Some may suggest a weekly sporting activity to get things moving, which ideas you are able to do will vary drastically from each workplace but don’t start stressing about these needs beginning to cost money. The majority of organisations that have managed to accommodate to mental health did it with no money spent, and those that did put money towards it averaged around only £75. 5) Take advantage of free expert advice It may be within your best interest to ensure a manager within the workplace has some knowledge or even experience within the mental health field. Or if your organisation is big enough perhaps you could hire an on-site counsellor. People don’t tend to realise that counselling and therapy aren't only for people with mental health issues, it’s for anyone who needs a little extra help when times get tough so everyone would benefit from an on-site counsellor or being aware there was a manager that could provide at least some help. Alternatively, there are plenty of free resources online for you to go ahead and self educate with, be that youtube videos, podcasts, books, or more blogs like this one.
The Modern Mind Group are emotioneering human performance not engineering it.
As people operations and performance consultants, we work with your business to identify and improve performance gaps so that you can be more profitable and professionally develop your people. Over 12 years of expertise in people operations and performance with results to back it all up. Why settle for the average when there is a world of possibility when you know how to achieve it? Untapped potential - Let's go get it!