Mental Health Awareness: Supporting Mental Health and Well-being at Work

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 takes place from the 13th to the 19th of May 2024. The month of May is an important time to shine a light on the state of mental health in the workplace and recognise the lasting stigmas and preconceptions about mental health issues. 

Mental health issues affect all employees, regardless of background, experience, culture, age, and industry. The sad reality is that many work related mental health issues often go unaddressed, which can compound and build up into problems that affect an employee’s well-being, safety, and overall health. This needs to change, and promptly.

Employers have a duty of care and must do all they can to ensure employee health, safety, and well-being. This doesn’t exclusively mean that they can work safely and healthily but also includes protecting them from discrimination, prejudice and abuse, often requiring reasonable workplace adjustments to be made. 

Fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable culture that recognises the real mental health challenges employees face, and provides reasonable accommodations for staff, is crucial for helping destigmatising mental health. In turn, this helps companies retain top talent, boosts productivity, reduces staff turnover, and, most importantly, creates a safe and welcoming environment where employees can thrive with confidence. 

overworked businesswoman struggling at work

The Importance of Prioritising Mental Health at Work 

If employees feel as though they can talk openly about mental health without any fear of repercussions, abuse, or discrimination, problems are less likely to build up. The personal tolls on mental health can significantly impair a person’s quality of life, not to mention that of those affected by their struggles.

Companies that actively support employee mental health and well-being can create welcoming environments that improve staff morale and, by extension, reduce staff time off for poor mental health. Reduced absenteeism and a positive workplace culture aren’t just the only benefits, however, with adequate mental health workplace support, employees will feel more engaged and productive and can deliver work of a higher quality due to feeling less burdened by their struggles.

At its core, providing reasonable mental health accommodations in the workplace is about creating an environment of empathy, openness, and inclusivity where employees feel comfortable seeking support when needed.

Common Mental Health Challenges for Employees 

It’s important to remember that mental health encompasses a wide range of conditions and circumstances. Different people face unique challenges based on their individual situation(s), and thus their struggles may manifest in a variety of symptoms and thoughts.

Some of the more well-known issues include (but are not limited to):

  • Stress, burnout and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trauma and PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders

How these challenges manifest and impact work performance can vary greatly. For example, an employee with severe anxiety may benefit from a quieter workspace with fewer distractions. Someone with depression may require a more flexible schedule and regular check-ins and confidential conversations with a professional. An employee with OCD may need access to specific facilities or tools. 

The key is encouraging open dialogue and customising reasonable adjustments in the workplace – because a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to mental health support. For instance, providing resources exclusively for women runs the risk of stigmatising men’s mental health support, and vice versa. By all means, gender- or issue-specific mental health assistance is integral, but careful consideration needs to be given to a broad spectrum of challenges employees may face.

Ways to Improve Mental Health at Work

One of the most effective ways to support mental health and well-being is to integrate efforts into your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Here are some recommended strategies to help employers achieve that:

Raise awareness and reduce stigma 

Provide mental health training, resources and guides, and host conversations to normalise discussions around mental well-being. Encourage people to share their stories in a safe, confidential, and secure environment where they are not at risk of being identified.

Offer mental health benefits and resources 

From Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to in-house staff counselling, give employees access to professional mental health resources from external specialists and qualified professionals. Consider benefits like mental health days off and fostering a culture that embraces ‘mental health champions.’ If employees talk to line managers about their mental health, listening carefully, identifying what the problem is, reassurance, and finding ways to help will go a long way in helping identify the specific support they need.

Prioritise work-life balance

Promote healthy boundaries around work hours, break times and time off. Ensure workloads are sustainable and managers are facilitating an open culture where work can be pushed back, delegated, and prioritised accordingly, to ensure staff don’t feel overburdened or stressed.

Provide accommodations and adjustments 

Just like supporting employees with physical disabilities or neurodivergence, make reasonable accommodations for mental health. Some employees’ mental health may be a disability or could be believed to be such, and thus, adjustments would be legally required under the Equality Act 2010. However, if a mental health problem is not a disability, their job could be making it harder to deal with, and therefore, workplace changes can still be a valuable support measure, however small. 

Leverage inclusion tools like ClearTalents 

DEI software like ClearTalents makes it easy for employees to privately communicate any circumstances impacting their work experience and get the right reasonable adjustments implemented. This fosters a more open, supportive environment.

employer showing empathy and support for struggling worker

Make Reasonable Adjustments for Employees 

When companies get mental health support right, it pays dividends through improved productivity, engagement, and retention of a happier, healthier workforce. This Mental Health Awareness Week, evaluate how you can make mental well-being an integral part of your DEI initiatives.

Take the first step by requesting a demo of ClearTalents’ workplace adjustment platform to understand how you can support employee mental health better and create a workplace that champions openness, confidentiality, and inclusivity.

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