Protecting your employees’ mental health & wellbeing

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How to support employees' mental health

According to the mental health charity MIND, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in the UK. The Office for National Statistics reported that the proportion of individuals showing symptoms of depression has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic.¹ It’s no surprise that you could have an employee struggling with depression, anxiety, or a poor/low mood.

The impact of poor mental health can lead to reduced productivity and employee engagement, higher levels of sick leave, increased turnover and presenteeism – being at work when ill but working less effectively.

These can be significant issues for SMEs who may not have the resources to reallocate work. So by taking a proactive approach to supporting employee mental health a business could minimise disruption, reduce employee absence and boost productivity.

Ten practical ways to support employees' mental health:

1. Talk about mental health

It is important to have regular open conversations about mental health with your employees and highlight what support is available. It can be hard for someone to open up about their mental health but when employers talk openly about wellbeing, employees are more confident to join the conversation. Openly talking about mental health will help remove some of the stigma and it will make it easier for people to reach out for support.

2. Provide access to counselling

Counselling can be useful in helping employees better understand and manage their conditions. The NHS offers a free counselling service and there is no need for a referral from the GP. Counselling sessions provided through an Employee Assistance Programme can help by offering guidance and support to employees. 

Some charities and voluntary organisations also offer counselling. These tend to specialise in a particular area, such as couples counselling, bereavement or family guidance:

3. Promote your Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)

Most UK employers offer some kind of an Employee Assistance Programme as part of a Group Life, Group Health or Group Income Protection Insurance. EAPs are designed to support employees’ physical, mental and financial wellbeing and can include telephone and face-to-face counselling.

4. Make use of free services

Mind, the mental health charity has a wealth of free resources which can be shared with line managers and employees. This includes guidance for line managers on supporting staff who are experiencing a mental health problem. Click here to find out more.

5. Reasonable adjustment at work

An employee suffering with their mental health has the legal right to ask for changes to be made to their jobs and workplaces. This is because a mental health issue can be considered a disability and often simple changes such as working from home, managing their workload or taking regular breaks can be enough to make a difference to their mental wellbeing. Find out more.

6. Invest in training

Training programmes for line managers have become increasingly popular and can help in tackling some of the ongoing stigma around mental health. The Health and Safety Executive is a good place to look for advice and guidance on risk assessment and training.

7. Mental Health First Aid

Many SMEs across the UK are now supporting their employees' mental health by training people to be Mental Health First Aiders, who offer practical support for employees struggling with their mental health whilst at work. The role of a Mental Health First Aider is to:

  • Spot the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues
  • Provide non-judgemental support and reassurance
  • Guide a person to seek professional support

Click here to find out more about Mental Health First Aiders

The role of a Mental Health First Aider can be highly rewarding, but it can also be demanding emotionally. Find out about RedArc’s training and support service for Mental Health First Aiders.

8. Improve employee engagement and culture

Employee engagement and culture have an impact on employees’ wellbeing. Ensuring employees regularly have opportunities to voice their concerns, is one way that you can understand some of the issues your employees may be facing. Click here to read our top tips in improving employee engagement.

9. Develop Wellbeing Recovery Action Plans where appropriate

Employers can implement a ‘Wellbeing Recovery Action Plan’ with employees where a mental health condition is identified. This is a plan developed with line managers and employees in open discussion. It allows line managers to help employees, and employees to help themselves, by listing early warning signs or changes in behaviour that might indicate an mental health issue.

10. Check your insurance policies to see what services are offered

Often Critical Illness and Group Income Protection policies provide a range of nurse-led services or support from registered counsellors, including mental health support. A personal nurse adviser or counsellor provides completely confidential help and support for as long as, and as often as, needed. Check what services you have already or speak to one or our team to consider introducing benefits to support employees’ wellbeing.

Top tips for boosting mental health

Download our guide for employees - Practical tips on supporting your own mental health at work.


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