Written by Nicola Gater | 6th March 2024

Times are tough for many people at the moment and understandably, this may affect their focus,performance and employee wellbeing at work.

In 2023, the mental health of nearly half of UK employees (47%) suffered due to financial uncertainty linked to the rising cost of living, according to ACAS. So, supporting employee mental health and wellbeing should continue to be a priority for employers in 2024.

Here are some examples of ways you can do this and considerations from our team.

Manage stress in the workplace

Financial uncertainty and other factors outside of work are just one element affecting employees’ wellbeing. Their experience at work will also play an important part, and a possible root cause of poor mental health that employers must continue to take seriously this year is work-related burnout. After all, burnout is an official medical diagnosis according to the World Health Organisation. And in Microsoft’s most recent Work Trend Index, more than half of managers reported feeling burnt out at work whilst Telus Health found that 43% of working Britons feel more stressed now compared to before the Covid pandemic.

Long hours, heavy workloads, lack of recognition and factors outside of work are just some of the issues that can contribute to burnout.

This can result in poor health and increased absence, but even where burnt out employees continue to work (often feeling pressured to do so) it’s unlikely they’ll be performing at their best.

Addressing the root causes of stress and poor mental health should be the first consideration in your wellbeing strategy. Not every employer will be able to consider financial benefits and pay reviews to support employees struggling with financial difficulties, but tackling other work-related factors can help.

Ensure employees have access to wellness services

While prevention is better than cure, all employees will at times experience poor wellbeing. Many more employers are offering support by funding Employer Assistance Programmes and access to health services or wellbeing apps. You can implement tools such as Wellness Action Plans and Mental Health First Aiders and encourage employees to take advantage of them.

Appointing and training Mental Health First Aiders in your organisation offer another means of support, and they can signpost professional organisations that can help. It’s important that any MHFAs have clear guidelines for their role, and that their own wellbeing is supported so they can continue to help others. Training is crucial to equip them with the skills and knowledge to support individuals in need.

Provide regular awareness training

Running awareness sessions can help to remove stigma around mental health, will build the necessary skills in your team to have productive conversations about it at work and give ideas for how people can look after their own mental health.

Our Wellbeing and Mental Health in the Workplace course for employees is designed to help them recognise possible causes and symptoms of mental distress, in themselves and others. It will give them tools to help others and strengthen their own resilience and wellbeing. We also offer a version of this course for managers. Managers must be well trained to address, or at the very least recognise, a mental health issue.

Consider the impact on other team members

While it is good that people feel more comfortable to speak about their wellbeing and mental health, it can affect colleagues at work, perhaps triggering their own anxieties, or pulling their focus away from their own day-to-day work.

Your workplace dynamic could be affected, making the workforce less of a team. Poor mental health can make a person feel down, sad, tired, ill, disconnected, negative or unmotivated and unable to work at their full capacity, or work at all, which can have a ripple effect on the rest of the team. Someone with mental health issues may struggle to interact with others and isolate themselves which could create a block in communication.

Ensure everyone in the team feel able to discuss any concerns with their manager, perhaps through regular one-to-one meetings. Make sure your managers are skilled and comfortable to speak with the team member who might be struggling, to agree support for them and arrangements that also support the wider team. It may be appropriate to reduce the employee’s workload for a period of time or offer them some time off work – they could take some of their paid holiday entitlement or unpaid leave – to give them time to deal with issues and come back to work more focused. Put an individual Wellness Action Plan in place to set out who they can talk to and where they can seek support if an employee starts to struggle with their mental health, and what measures can be put in place to help them. As an employer if you are unsure how to tackle challenges like this, it’s best to seek HR advice.

While you should explore any workplace factors contributing to stress or burnout, factors outside of work such as the cost-of-living crisis are more difficult to solve. You can, however, help employees to feel generally well supported, happier and more engaged, wherever the challenges are coming from.

If you have any questions, or would like support providing mental health awareness training, please get in touch with our team at [email protected]