The steps outlined so far will all help to promote the positive mental health of your employees. But even the most supportive workplaces can’t prevent some people from experiencing mental health issues. Just as some people experience physical ill health, some will experience mental ill health.
You can take steps to make sure you are engaged and ready to provide support when it is needed.
Handling sensitive conversations
It is important to make sure everyone knows what to do, and what not to do, when an employee or colleague begins to talk about their mental health.
Start by having an informal chat – but if there’s a problem, plan a more formal meeting with the employee:
- Find a private place where you won’t be interrupted – perhaps a neutral space outside work.
- Switch off your mobile!
- Ask open questions: “How are you doing at the moment?”, “You’ve seemed a bit withdrawn lately. Is anything the matter?”.
- Give them time to answer, and listen to what they say – don’t make assumptions.
- Give advice and support, where appropriate.
- Agree a plan of action and schedule a follow-up meeting.
You may not reach this stage in a single meeting – people may not open up straight away. Don’t worry – reassure them that your door is always open, and that the support is there if they need it.
Remember, once a conversation has taken place about someone’s mental health, it should be returned to see how the employee is progressing.
Knowing what support to offer
If an employee is living with a medical condition, you have a legal responsibility to consider making “reasonable adjustments” to enable them to remain in work.
These might include: • Flexible hours or home working • Adjusting their job description and reassigning tasks • Moving their workplace • Providing extra training or mentoring.
Most reasonable adjustments are simple and inexpensive and are really just good people management and part of your general duty of care to your employees. But in some cases, employees with a mental health condition may need further professional support.
Spot the signs
- Ensure senior team and all line managers are equipped to spot the signs that someone is experiencing a mental health problem or that they may need help.
Manage sensitive conversations
- Ensure you and all your managers are prepared with the knowledge for how to respond to employees that express concerns for their mental health.
- Also be able to facilitate these conversations when signs of distress are spotted, to open the conversation on what support can be provided.
Provide the right support
- Ensure you have the support mechanisms in place to help anyone who is experiencing mental health, whether this is making adjustments to their workload, signposting them to your resources or even directing them to professional support.
Here are some useful questions to help you assess if an employee or colleague is experiencing mental distress:
- Does the individual appear overly stressed, disturbed or distracted?
- Do they appear dazed, withdrawn or shutdown?
- Are they fidgety, restless or jumpy?
- Are they talking incoherently or laughing incongruously?
- Do they seem over-excited, euphoric, irritable or aggressive?
- Do they appear to be having illogical or irrational thought processes?
- Do they keep repeating themselves or obsessing?
- Do they appear to be taking information in?
- Do they seem to be responding to experiences, sensations or people not observable by others? (Source: Mind/FSB)
However, if one or more of these signs is observed, this does not automatically mean the employee has a mental health problem – it could be a sign of another health issue or something else entirely. Always take care not to make assumptions or listen to third party gossip and to talk to the person directly.