Dealing with mental health in small businesses

This blog has come from our partners at Citrus HR, originally posted 8th Oct 2022

Wellbeing has really been under attack in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic and the current cost of living crisis. This means that employees are looking for as much support from their employer as possible when it comes to addressing their work life balance and wellbeing.

A Deloitte survey report from March 2022 identified that 37% of employees think about their own mental health more than prior to the pandemic, and 31% expect more employer support for their mental health now than they did before. When you also add the cost of living crisis into the mix, the need for support with mental health is higher than ever before.

Monday 10th October marks World Mental Health Day 2022 and acts as a great reminder for us all as individuals and also as small business employers to take a step back take stock of how we are supporting our employees to look after their own wellbeing inside and outside of work.

From one small business owner to another, we understand that employee wellbeing is one of your top priorities all year round, as your employees are your business.

Here are some key tips to help you prioritise promoting wellbeing and supporting any employees experiencing poor mental health.

The CIPD working in conjunction with Mind has suggested the following indicators that someone may be experiencing poor mental health:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety or distress
  • Increased smoking and drinking
  • Indigestion or upset stomach
  • Tearfulness
  • Using recreational drugs
  • Headaches
  • Feeling low
  • It might not be possible to spot all of these signs in workplace behaviour, but you may come across some of them and spot a red flag that something is not as it should be with your employee. You should also look out for these and also take particular notice of any sort of change in employee behaviour. For example, someone who is usually very quiet suddenly becoming the life and soul of the party, or someone who is usually very well groomed appearing less so. Noticeable changes in behaviour could be a sign that an employee is experiencing mental ill health.

    There may also be employees who have already made you aware of mental ill health if they have ongoing issues, or it may come up in a Fit Note or Return to Work meeting.

    One in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in time and therefore it is vital to try to create an environment where staff feel supported in raising concerns. This obviously applies at all levels of seniority in your business, so it is important that managers also feel able to disclose their own issues.

    Employees may feel shy of letting you know that work is a contributing factor to how they are feeling, as they may feel that their manager may take it too personally. It’s important to be aware of this, and consider it speaking with your people.

    Campaigns like Time to Change, or World Mental Health Day can be really useful opportunities to get started with general conversations around mental health to help show employees that it is safe for them to talk about mental health without being judged.

    Encourage your people to ask for support or guidance when they are dealing with any mental health concerns, whether that is because of work or external factors. Increasing numbers of people may experience financial pressures which are one of the key contributors to feelings of poor mental health. It is likely that this will increase in the current climate.

    Encouraging regular two-way conversations between you and your people is paramount to normalising the topic. As 30% of employees don’t feel comfortable talking to their managers about mental health, it’s important to try to let your team know that they can speak out freely when they are having a difficult day or are struggling long-term, and make sure they know they don’t need to suffer in silence.

    Not all your people may feel comfortable with an ‘open-door’ policy, so maybe using software for digital surveys to get feedback about their experience at work, including in an anonymised form, may also work. This can encourage those who are more introverted or less likely to speak out directly to be open and allow you to understand where there may be problems.

    Scheduling regular one-to-ones is a great way for a manager to sound out how an employee is feeling and gives an opportunity to listen to concerns in a confidential environment.

    If someone lets you know they are struggling, or need any adjustments to their workload, role or any further training, there are lots of resources available to help line managers on the Mind website.

    It is also important to lead in working sensible hours, taking lunch breaks and annual leave and creating boundaries between home and working life so employees feel safe to do this themselves.

    Having a good mental health and wellbeing policy in place, and promoting this to your staff, is a good way of setting out clearly any processes you want to have in place for prevention of mental ill health, as well as how you will approach treatment, and support at work for any employee that needs it.

    The policy can also demonstrate that you see mental health concerns on the same level of importance as physical wellbeing issues. It may also help to improve workplace culture and the knock-on effects it can have on employee performance and reducing absenteeism.

    No small business is the same and there isn’t a one size fits all solution. If you do feel that you have the resources, you could consider training one or two people to be mental health first aiders.

    You could also consider providing a third-party Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), as these usually provide mental health support and some also provide financial wellbeing and legal information for employees.

    If you do not have the resources to provide these it is a good idea to have the details of some charities such as Mind and the Samaritans available to mangers to sign post individuals to if needed.

    The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please get in touch with the team at Citrus.

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