Supporting employees’ mental health has never been more important, and to mark World Mental Health Day (10th October), the UK’s Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (Howden) released a new guide to help employers spot the signs of burn out amongst their employees and take action to support them.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” – a definition which puts the responsibility firmly on employers and managers.
The HSE reported that in 2019/20, the number of employees dealing with work-related stress, depress or anxiety had risen significantly compared to the previous 12 months.
Howden highlights that the pandemic has raised the stress levels for many people who have had to deal with additional pressures such as home working, juggling home schooling and work, health and financial worries and social isolation. For some this has created mental health issues for the first time and exacerbated existing conditions for others.
As more people return to the office this Autumn, Howden is urging employers to step up their mental health support and ensure line managers are trained to spot early warning signs that people are struggling so they can support them.
Mark Fosh, Director of SME at Howden said, “Having a workforce that is physically and mentally well is essential for a company’s culture and performance.
“The World Health Organisation has estimated that depression and anxiety could cost the global economy US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity. The Mental Health Foundation[i] highlights that 70 million working days are lost every year due to mental health problems, costing UK employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.
‘If employees are burnt out, they are likely to take extended sick leave and have very low morale which may affect their colleagues. So, being able to spot employees who are suffering from poor mental health and putting the right interventions in place could prevent issues from escalating.’
So where should employers’ start?
Howden’s guide includes the following advice for employers:
1. Talking – having regular conversations about mental health with employees and highlighting what support is available, is a good start. It can be hard for people to open up about mental health and this can help to remove the stigma.
2. Providing access to counselling – this can help employees better understand and manage their condition. The NHS offers a free counselling service, so do several charities. Bereavement care, relationship advice and victim support are all available.
3. Promoting your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – Most UK employers offer some kind of EAP as part of their Group Health or Group Income Protection Insurance. EAPs are designed to support the physical mental and financial wellbeing of employees. These often provide access to both telephone and face to face counselling.
4. Use free services – Mind, the mental health charity has lots of free resources which can be shared with managers and employees. This includes guidance for managers on how to support staff who are experiencing mental health issues.
5. Making reasonable adjustments at work – An employee suffering with mental health issues has the legal right to ask for changes to be made to their job or workplace. Simple changes such as working from home, managing their workload, or taking more breaks can really help.
6. Invest in training – train line managers on how to spot the signs of mental health such as employees who are behaving differently and may be tearful, frustrated, angry, lethargic, and absent from work more frequently so they can provide support early on. Many employers are training people to become Mental Health First Aiders, who can offer practical support to employees.
7. Improving employee engagement – ensuring employees have regular opportunities to voice their concerns. Communicate the range of employee benefits on offer, so people know what is available and how to access it when they need it.
8. Developing Wellbeing Recovery Action Plans – employers can implement a plan with managers and employers when a mental health condition is identified. It allows line managers to help employees – and employees to help themselves
9. Checking insurance policies to see what services are offered – Critical illness and Group Income Protection Policies often offer a range of services that provide mental health support for your employees when they need it most. If you don’t currently offer any employee benefits, then now is a good time to speak to a consultant to find out what is available and can best support the specific needs of your business and workforce.
10.Lastly, use World Mental Health Day as a reason to talk about mental health and signpost the support available and the fact that as employers you are there for your staff