At today’s Guildford Business Growth Forum we held a panel discussion on mental health wellbeing in the workplace. The overriding theme was that business leaders need to be responsible for instigating the change in culture, but that everyone has a part to play. Culture, training and communication are the three most important aspects of promoting mental health in the workplace.
My colleague, Rosemary Hedgecock, Head of Alliotts HR Services chaired the discussion which included scripted questions to a panel of mental health experts from Healthcare on Demand and Nick White, Project Lead at Guildford First. This was followed by questions from the floor.
The key points that I took away from today’s forum are
- Business owners/leaders need to start the conversation about mental health issues amongst colleagues
- Signs to look out for, sick leave, shortened hours, high staff turnover, the effect on colleagues when one of the team is on long term sick leave and others are covering more work
- Encourage play in your teams
- Effective change management is essential in maintaining a healthy work environment
- Businesses should consider appointing a board member as a mental health champion so that mental health rises further up the agenda
- Be curious about changes in a work colleague, this could be a sign of mental ill health, for example appearance, relationships and missing deadlines
- Consider training people as mental health first aiders in the workplace (MHFA provide courses)
- When you ask ‘how are you?’ really mean it and back it up with an observation if you are concerned. ‘I’ve noticed you’re not taking your lunch hour, is everything ok?’ can be a conversation opener. And listen properly but don’t try to provide a solution.
- Some people will cover up the fact that they are suffering because they are in denial. Its important not to ignore this group either
- A conversation early on can help you provide support and prevent a situation escalating
- People suffering from mental health issues are often afraid to tell their employers for fear of being marginalised
- Local support groups for businesses report that businesses are not engaging with them and that more needs to be done to encourage businesses to take mental health wellbeing seriously.
On the subject of lone workers, such as the self employed, the panel emphasised how easy it can be to suffer from mental ill health. They encouraged people who work for themselves
- Achieve a sense of balance, make time for you
- Get out and meet people regularly, avoid relying on social media as the only form of communication
- Build a close network of people around you who you can be really honest with
- Consider a mentor or coach
- Keep well physically.
What I heard today has made me more aware of the warning signs to look out for and how to start a sensitive conversation about how someone might be feeling.
There will be a list of Guildford based support networks and groups available shortly, which I will publish.
Here are some useful national resources for businesses and individuals
Developed, led and supported by employers, MINDFUL EMPLOYER® provides businesses and organisations with easier access to information and support.
By signing up to the Employer Pledge you demonstrate your commitment to change how you think and act about mental health in the workplace and make sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported.
Taking Care of Business
An employers guide to creating mentally healthy workplaces
Action for Happiness
The Action for Happiness (“Exploring What Matters”) is a unique and inspiring 8-week course to explore what matters for a happy and meaningful life. Supported by the Dalai Lama.
ACAS – The Management of Mental Health at Work
An informative research paper for employers which includes case studies.
IoD Mental Health Hub
A resource to support SMEs in the creation of a culture of openness about mental health.
For further advice or assistance the panel of experts at today’s event can be contacted via Healthcare on Demand.
To contact Rosemary Hedgecock, Alliotts Head of HR Services who can advise on a mental health policy for your organisation, or to talk about any HR related matter please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01483 533119.
We look forward to seeing you at the next Guildford Business Growth Forum on 21 June, so please save the date.
More details will be available nearer the time.
If you have any questions about this, or future events please do get in touch.