With 45% of all employee sickness absence attributed to stress (Labour Force Survey, 2016), providing the support and resources to help employees manage their wellbeing is not only good practice but it makes sound business sense too. A well-thought-out approach to workplace wellbeing can help to create a happier, more effective workforce; reduce sickness absence and presenteeism and their associated costs; improve employee retention; increase employee engagement; and boost your reputation as a business that cares.
So here are five ideas that you as an employer can do to promote good mental health in the workplace and support employees to manage stress.
- Plan your strategy. The government-commissioned Thriving at Work report (Stevenson and Farmer, 2017) recommends that all employers create a Mental Health at Work Plan. A current, regularly reviewed plan demonstrates your commitment to supporting good mental health in the workplace, helps to embed a culture of open and honest conversations around mental health and creates a strategy and structure for planned action.
- Train your leaders. Leaders need a range of skills to effectively lead and support a team. Without those skills, both the leader and employees may be more vulnerable to the stresses and worries associated with inadequate leadership. Training leaders in effective and emotionally intelligent people management skills enables the leader to lead with more success and to interact more confidently and considerately with individual team members.
- Address any issues in the physical environment. It goes without saying that the physical environment needs to meet the requirements of health and safety legislation, but there are other aspects of the physical environment, such as design and layout, which can also impact on wellbeing. For example, employees working in an open plan office may be adversely affected by loud conversations between other workers, limited personal space or lack of control over lighting and room temperature.
- Implement good quality stress management training. Not all stress management training is the same so it’s important to do your research. Stress management training can be incredibly helpful to employees at all levels of the organisation, and when it is incorporated within your induction and training programme it provides a strong message that your organisation is serious about promoting and supporting good mental health.
- Regularly review working practices which may be causing or contributing to stress. For example, are employees working long hours to accommodate heavy workloads? Do they need additional training to enable them to do their job properly? Are they getting constantly interrupted? Do they have unrealistic expectations placed upon them? Do lone workers receive sufficient support or have enough contact with others?
If you’d like more information about stress in the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive has a section about stress on its website, including resources for employers https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/index.htm You can also read more about the Thriving at Work report here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thriving-at-work-a-review-of-mental-health-and-employers
© Michelle Drapeau, https://mindforwellbeing.co.uk/ Michelle Drapeau is a Stress and Anxiety Coach, providing one-to-one programmes and group workshops/courses for people experiencing stress, anxiety or general wellbeing issues.