How to address poor mental health at work

According to research by mental health charity Mind, 50 per cent of people suffering poor mental health at work. But what steps could be taken to improve employees’ mental wellbeing?

In this article you will learn:

  • The factors that impact mental health
  • Actions that may help to improve mental health in the workplace

What’s the cause?

While it’s hard to say definitively what the cause of poor mental health is, there are a number of factors in the workplace that can affect employees. Research carried out by Benenden Health found that the top three underlying causes of poor mental health at work were: increased workload, financial concerns, and workplace bullying.

While many workplaces will undoubtedly already have procedures in place to address all three of these things, it relies on people speaking and research by Mind found that half of people who are suffering mental health issues feel unable to speak to their manager about it. And that’s unsurprising when you consider the fact that as many as 300,000 people lose their jobs due to poor mental health each year.

How to help

So what do employers, managers and employees need to do to help support people who are struggling with mental ill health at work?

Listen: Perhaps the most important thing anyone can do when it comes to mental health is to listen. If an employee is making a disclosure about their mental health, it’s important that they feel empowered and able to talk about it, how it’s affecting their work and what they might need to help improve their health. Advice from Mind says: “Everyone’s experience of a mental health problem is different so treat people as individuals and focus on the person, not the problem. Adapt your support to suit the individual and involve people as much as possible in finding solutions to any work related difficulties they’re experiencing.”

Support: After listening to the mental problems that an individual is dealing with, it’s important to find ways of supporting them. This could be anything from giving them training on how to deal with an increased workload to offering flexible working so that they can work at the times that are best for them.

Practices: There are many activities and practices that workplaces can introduce that will help to improve employees’ mental health. Encouraging people to be more active – either through incentives such as a wellbeing programme, provision of exercise classes, or simply introducing walking meeting – has proven to improve mental health thanks to the endorphins that are released when we exercise.

Exercise isn’t the only option though and many workplaces have introduced mindfulness sessions to help employees build their resilience and better cope with the issues of the modern workplace. According to occupational therapist Paul Barrett, head of wellbeing at the Bankworkers Charity, mindfulness has proven benefits for those suffering with depression and stress.

Head over to the Virgin Facebook page on October 10th at 4.45pm (BST), where we'll be live streaming a World Mental Health Day panel discussion featuring Poppy Jamie, founder of Happy Not Perfect; Vanessa Boachie, founder and creative director of Inside Out; Andrew Brown, head of corporate partnerships at CALM; and Vanessa King, positive psychologist, author and board member for Action for Happiness.

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