Six steps for managers to support good mental health in the work place.
1: Learn about mental health in the work place:
Find out about work place stress, what causes it and how you can manage it for yourself and for people who work for you. Health and Safety Executive have some useful information: http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/furtheradvice/stressandmentalhealth.htm. Educate yourself about anxiety and depression and how it feels for people. Organise some training for you and for your team members.
2: Create a healthy work place:
Remove from your workplace the stigma of mental health so that people can talk openly about it. Time to change have some great resources to help you with this: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk. Encourage people to have a good work life balance. Prevent bullying and discrimination. Be clear about team members’ responsibilities. Encourage sporting and social events amongst your team members.
3: Know each member of your team well:
If you know the people in your team well you will know if they are having problems. This might mean you have to spend time working with your team, perhaps in an informal environment so that they feel comfortable enough to be themselves while you are around. Talk to your team members often in an informal way so that they feel comfortable telling you things.
4: Get good at spotting the early signs of stress or mental ill health:
If you do know your team well you should be able to spot when things aren’t quite right. Are there unexplained absences from work? Is their performance slipping? Is their timekeeping becoming worse or even better if it was poor to start with? Are they consuming more alcohol, tobacco or caffeine? Are they complaining of headaches or backaches? Are they being withdrawn, perhaps more or less sociable than they have been? Have they been making errors of judgement? Are they often tired and lethargic? Are they unusually emotional?
5: Be the person that people can talk to:
Be approachable. Have informal conversations often. Make sure that you regularly have supervision sessions with your team members. When you are having a conversation with someone about their mental health, make sure you are in a private place that you are both comfortable with. Don’t give advice. That is the job of the medical professionals. Listen and let the person tell their story. Be aware of your body language. Be relaxed and maintain eye contact. Reflect back what your have heard to ensure that you have properly understood. Ask what you can do to help. Finish the conversation with a plan.
6: Make adjustments for people:
Making adjustments for someone who isn’t well might mean they can stay at work when they would have otherwise been absent. Making adjustments for someone who has had time off might mean they can come back sooner than they would have. The adjustments might not huge adjustments and they may only be temporary.