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A 3-step guide to looking after your employees' mental health

Posted in Company Culture, Employers, Recruitment, Workplace Wellbeing on May 06, 2022 by Keeley Edge

A 3-step guide to looking after your employees’ mental health

Stress, anxiety, insomnia, loneliness, depression…

Mental health problems are wide ranging, life limiting, and affect us all.

May 9 sees the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s focus is on loneliness. Research has shown that loneliness can be worse for your mind and body than alcohol or smoking. And with the move to homeworking and virtual meetings, along with more geographically dispersed teams, the UK workforce is possibly more isolated than ever before.

Some 30% of employees in the UK have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition (BITC). According to the Health and Safety Executive, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases in 2020/21.

There’s no denying it – mental health is a business issue. It affects how employees feel about their job and how well they perform. It can make them feel less committed, less collaborative, and less attentive. It has an impact on their productivity, creativity, and the quality and quantity of their work.

Businesses in the UK spend around £45 billion a year on the fallout of poor mental health in the workplace, of which £7 billion is on sickness absence, while presenteeism costs upwards of £26 billion (BITC). Spending on employee mental health is set to rise by 18% in 2022 (Bupa Global).

It's never been more important to care for your workers’ wellbeing, so let’s look at the 3 ways you can help.

1 Commit to caring for employee mental health through your plans, training, and support

2 Create a positive workplace culture and healthy working conditions

3 Make mental health support part of your recruitment process

1 Commit to caring for employee mental health throughout your business

Support for employee mental health is not something that can only be offered by large corporations with a wellbeing budget and a large enough workforce to have dedicated mental health-oriented roles. Businesses of any size and status have a duty of care to look after their employee’s mental health.

By developing a mental health care policy for your business, you show your employees that caring for their wellbeing is not a knee-jerk reaction, but something that is embedded in the core values of your organisation.

Your plan should explain how your business promotes good mental health and breaks down the stigma through:

  • company policies – mental health considerations in your health and safety, and sickness absence policies
  • company initiatives – wellbeing committees or cycle-to-work schemes
  • ad hoc company events – wellbeing days, office parties, workshops, speakers etc.

You might also consider appointing someone as your workplace wellbeing champion to ensure positive cultural change is also being implemented at employee level.

For help developing an action plan to address mental health care in the workplace, download the Time to Change guide, where you can also find an plan template to help you on your way.

Training is essential to ensure your employees have the skills and confidence to make your plan a reality. Training line managers in how to support their staff is particularly important as they are the ones balancing staff wellbeing with the aims of the business. In 2020, only 13% of employees felt able to discuss their mental wellbeing with their line manager.

For online learning programmes and resources on how to handle conversations about wellbeing in the workplace, visit the Samaritans website.

How you and your managers support your workers is important. Good managers are aware of the signs of poor mental health, know where to find the right help and resources, and know when to check in with people at the right time.

You can find more information on managing and supporting employees with mental health problems from Bupa hereand from the Federation of Small Businesses here.

2 Create a positive workplace culture and healthy working conditions

By creating a positive working environment, where managers can actively engage and communicate with employees, where bullying and discrimination aren’t tolerated, and where working conditions are optimised for wellbeing and productivity, you are helping to protect and nurture the mental health of your workers.

Having regular meetings with employees – both informal 1:1s and structured appraisals – allow managers to check in on their teams to see how they’re doing. Regular meetings provide line managers with the opportunity to offer support, to see if their team want to discuss any issues, and to keep lines of communication open, which will make individuals feel more comfortable in disclosing any difficulties they may be having.

A healthy work–life balance is critical in reducing stress and boosting wellness. Check your team’s working patterns to make sure everyone is working only reasonable hours, having plenty of offline time, working to agreed deadlines, and has the flexibility of working around other commitments (such as appointments, family or carer responsibilities).

Find more advice on how to create good working conditions to support mental health on the World Health Organization website.

3 Make mental health support part of your recruitment process

Being visibly and proactively supportive of those with poor mental health in your recruitment process can encourage candidates with the right skillset and experience to seek employment after a career break due to ill mental health.

Make it clear in your recruitment advertising, job description, and related communications that your company welcomes people with lived mental health problems and appreciates the insights they can bring.

If support for mental health issues is clear from the outset, candidates will feel more empowered to disclose any difficulties they may have in this area. Be careful not to press a candidate or recruit to admit to any issues, as this has to come from them. When such information is disclosed, it can lead to discussions on how they might benefit from any modifications you can offer (flexible hours, hybrid working, more/less time with team members etc.) to help them adjust to and thrive in their new role.

If you are looking for support with recruitment, please get in touch. Call us on 0844 504 4666 or drop us a line at

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