We have been working with mental health charity Mind on a series of articles exploring mental health in the workplace. Take a look at the full content series on our sister publication HRZone today to get insight and advice on how to improve mental wellbeing throughout your organisation.
We all have mental health, in the same way that we all have physical health. It can fluctuate over time and, regardless of whether we have a mental health problem or not, our experience at work can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.
It’s really important that staff feel well supported, both for their own mental health and for your organisation. Around 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem fall out of work each year, costing the UK economy up to £99bn. The cost – both human and financial – of not getting this right is staggering, and line managers play a key role in addressing this.
The relationship line managers have with staff is crucial when it comes to how employees respond if they’re experiencing stress or poor mental health. We need to see line managers fostering openness, so people know they can disclose if they are struggling.
This will also help to ensure people can get timely and appropriate support if they need it. Managers need to have the skills and confidence to manage situations effectively and sensitively, and start the process of supporting staff in a positive and proactive way.
Wellness Action Plans
One practical tool that we use at Mind to support the relationship between line managers and staff are Wellness Action Plans. We encourage all staff to develop their own plan with their line manager, regardless of whether they have a diagnosed mental health problem or not.
They allow people to plan in advance and develop tailored support for times when they’re not coping so well. It also provides a helpful framework for having a conversation about mental health, which is something that lots of people find difficult.
A plan should include:
Approaches someone can adopt to support their own mental wellbeing
Early warning signs of poor mental health to look out for
Any workplace triggers for poor mental health or stress
Potential impact of poor mental health or a mental health problem on performance, if any
What support someone might need from their line manager
Actions and positive steps you will both take if they are experiencing stress or poor mental health
An agreed time to review the support measures to see if they’re working.
Of course the responsibility doesn’t fall solely at the feet of line managers. Senior leadership is also key – only by taking responsibility for their own wellbeing, being honest about their limitations and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can senior staff make sure that their employees do the same. They also need to ensure that it’s communicated to staff that their mental health is valued and create a wider culture of openness.
Crucially, line managers themselves need support too, so that they to can provide the most effective line management for staff. At Mind, our dedicated Workplace Wellbeing team provides training courses and free resources that can help managers be as prepared as possible for line management.
About Emma Mamo
Emma Mamo is Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind. Emma joined Mind in 2007 and, since 2010, has led Mind’s campaigning for mentally healthy workplaces - playing a pivotal role in thought leadership to position mental health in the workplace as a key priority for employers and Government.
Emma has led culture change through engagement with employers, health and safety professionals, HR audiences and Government on mental health in the workplace and back-to-work support for people with mental health problems. She also supports networks of employers and stakeholders to share best practice and develop business-to-business peer support. Emma has worked in the disability sector since 2005 and previously worked for Mencap, the learning disability charity.