The last 18 months have presented more challenges than most to both employers and employees. Illness, isolation, proximity, uncertainty and financial worries have all taken their toll.
As employers we have a duty of care to employees and must do what is reasonably practicable to reduce the risk of hazards to mental ill health. This includes having initiatives to build positive mental health.
What steps can we take to do that?
- Encourage employees to get enough rest. They should give 100% attention to work while they’re there, then go home at a reasonable time and do and think about other things. In the same way, make sure they take holiday regularly. People are not robots and they need downtime.
- Build a culture where you recognise and appreciate achievements. A small step in the right direction is just as important as passing the finishing post.
- Balance is important. Mistakes happen, especially when employees are new or inexperienced. Give honest and objective feedback, help them learn from their mistakes then encourage them to draw a line and move to the next thing. In other words don’t keep dwelling on the negative.
- The UK is not a very healthy nation and it not only increases the risk of physical illness, it increases the risk of mental ill health. Encourage your team to have a healthy outlook. Have standing desks; have a “no food in the office” rule. Don’t eat lunch at the desks while working. Leave the office for a proper break at lunchtime. Participate in the Cycle to Work scheme.
- Build a good support system. Set up your workspace to optimise efficient shared knowledge and good working practices. Mentor new and recent employees, agree workloads, priorities and deadlines, give constructive feedback and share problems.
- Help your team plan their day so they can work efficiently. If they feel that they are coping and how to deal with problems effectively, they’ll feel much calmer.
- Helping others helps our own mental health. Do a team event for one of your favourite charities every year. It gives a great feel-good factor.
- Help staff to build emotional resilience. Doing things that require discipline builds self-worth because employees feel that they can take control of more aspects of their work life. Push the boundaries. One of my trainees once told me: “I’m so grateful to you for making me responsible for running the schools programme. You told me that you would help prepare me to stand up in front of young people to deliver the programme. If you’d asked me I would have said “No”. But because you just expected me to have a go, I did and I have benefited enormously and it’s really built my confidence”.
- Create a pleasant work environment. Keep it clean, tidy and well organised. There are colourful flowers in our planters and cheerful artwork on the walls. Windows are open when the weather permits (I am a fresh air fiend). Tidy up every night so you have a welcoming workplace to return to each day.
- Recognise achievements and compliment your team members appropriately; encourage your team to compliment their colleagues.
- Leave some time to laugh. It has a huge benefit and brings the team together.
- Help employees understand and accept that there are some things they just cannot change. Acceptance is key. A good deal of anxiety arises from trying to change things beyond our control. Recognising that is essential to good mental health.
- Encourage employees to identify areas they find difficult and take responsibility for coming up with a plan to tackle it. Help them implement it.
- If an employee does have mental ill health issues, support him or her as much as possible by investigating, providing information, support and making reasonable adjustments as appropriate.
- Do what you can to encourage a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the positives. If your employees understand that they can help shift their mind set by looking round and recognising that there are quite a few good things in their lives it energises and helps them cope with tough and mentally draining problems.
If you’re an employer with HR queries and problems, get in touch!
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2021 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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