Written by Heidi Wadsworth

22nd January 2021

A huge number of challenges have potentially affected the mental health and performance of your people over the past year. Work-life balance, stress, juggling care commitments, job insecurity, health concerns… the list goes on. For some, wellbeing and employee mental health support was seen as a ‘nice to have’ before Covid-19. But now we have realised it is critical in order to have healthy, happy, and productive workforce.

Employers and managers should now focus on finding ways that will have an impact and create a culture where people feel it is acceptable to come forward to discuss how they are feeling and the impact on their work. Here are some of our team’s suggestions:

Develop Wellness Actions Plans

A Wellness Action Plan is an agreed document between an employer and member of staff that sets out how they should be supported in the event of an issue. WAPs can help prevent and address problems such as staff turnover, sickness absence, decreased motivation and lost productivity. They are a way for every employee – whether they have a mental health problem or not – to work with their manager to identify what keeps them well at work. It will also contain:

  • workplace triggers and early warning signs
  • impact of mental health problem on performance
  • steps for the line manager to take
  • steps for the employee to take

If staff already have WAP’s then it would be helpful to review them regularly – this can be looked at and kept up to date during 1-2-1s.

We’ve created a free guide to Wellness Action Plans which you can download here.

Employee Assistance Programmes

Many companies use an employee assistance programme, or EAP for short, to support workplace mental health. They typically offer employees free, confidential support and could include face-to-face (or virtual) counselling, e-mail and phone support 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.

 Some employees may be reluctant to use this due to fear of stigma or lack of understanding about how it works. To help, you need to make sure employees know how to access this resource, and that it provides them with free and totally confidential access to employee mental health professionals if they need advice, or just someone to talk to.

Provide training for staff and line managers

If managers  are unsure of how to approach mental health and avoid the subject completely, employees may feel wary of opening up to them.

It all starts from the top, so to ensure everyone feels comfortable speaking about mental health. Managers need to be adequately trained to address, or at the very least recognise, a mental health issue.

As more and more employees struggle with mental health, it’s important to reduce stigma, and build the necessary skills to have productive conversations about it at work. Our Wellbeing Toolkit gives managers practical advice on mental health and wellbeing and the tools to plan proactively, the confidence to identify problems and deal with them, and the awareness to help prevent issues from escalating or arising.

Review workloads

Often, managers don’t link performance issues to mental health and it’s important to remember that some signs of mental health issues include being unmotivated, unable to concentrate and absenteeism.

Remember that people have extra pressures at the moment – children are homeschooling, they may be concerned about elderly parents or relatives, a partner’s employment may be at risk, and they may have anxieties about their own health. This means their motivation and performance at work could be affected.

If you feel an employee is struggling, managers should be sensitive to this and recognise that expectations may need to be adjusted in the short term or if particular situations arise. Existing objectives, workloads and deadlines could be reviewed to make sure someone isn’t taking on too much for them to handle, but also so that others aren’t feeling overwhelmed with extra workload.

Employee Mental health champions

Sometimes people feel confident speaking to someone who isn’t their manager – that’s just the way it is. Setting up a mentoring system within your business can be a great way of getting your employees talking to each other about their mental health and providing valuable, one- on-one support.

Having dedicated staff members for wellness, such as mental health champions or mental health first aiders, helps open up the conversations and signpost someone to go to if you need support. Members can organise activities each month to raise awareness of mental health and boost team wellbeing such as a virtual coffee and chat.

Introduce flexible working for a better work/life balance

Work is important, but there are so many other things outside of work that give our lives meaning and purpose – things like family, community, and hobbies. More often than not, work obligations get in the way of this, and our employee’s mental health and wellbeing suffers as a result.

Allowing for flexible working hours does two things. It gives employees the ability to alter their work habits to fit their family needs or to keep working on projects they enjoy. This results in a more healthy work-life balance that benefits everyone.

Perhaps more importantly, it sends a signal that you trust your employees. When you enable employees to set their own schedules as long as they hit deadlines and deliver results, they feel more like partners – and they’ll work that much harder for you.

We’re running a 2hour interactive wellbeing workshop on February 24th at 10am to improve mental health awareness, help managers start conversations around mental health and advice on good workplace practices to support wellbeing.

For more information or to book your place see www.realityhr.co.uk/coronavirus.