Free Advice for Employers! Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

Upon returning to his job at the bank after a break to train and participate in the 2012 Olympics, Jeremiah Brown, had a silver medal to show workmates. After his first Olympics appearance and managing to earn silver medal in the men’s eight rowing crew, he was understandably happy and genuinely proud.

The gratitude was soon replaced with regret and a feeling of betrayal. After such a heroic performance at the London Olympics, he felt pressure all over himself and undue envy. And without any understanding and consideration from employers, had to get back to his regular career. He feeled degraded.

With lots of “motivational posters” featuring men’s eight rowing team along with sarcastic words “You aren’t paid for your dreams. Get back to work!”

Mr. Brown felt dejected. Moreover, young family was counted on him. If only his employers were a bit considerate with how they handled him.

We all face workplace-based stress. But we have to admit that athletes and to some extent, those who’ve been in the limelight and have to adjust to healthy life afresh.  But it's hard without support and in the wake of it, many employees have to put up with it or sadly resign. As Paula Allen of Morneau Shepell says, we all have different stress thresholds in our workplaces, but due to harsh economic and employment environment we face differently, reaching the brink is easier than ever.

A shrewd employee will open up and tell the employer what could be wrong and perhaps ask for some time off work for psychiatric help. Others may even resort to using of smart pills and continue working. Sure, such a pill offers an invaluable relief when everything fails. But there’s a big reason why an employer must be on the lookout and counsel the company’s staff all the time.

It is the fact that a better workplace mental health improves the bottom line. For instance, return on investment analysis at 2014 by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that for every dollar spent on creating a mentally healthy workplace, there would be a $2.30 benefit to the organisation.

Recognizing Performance Dips and Mental Health Problems

Advice for Employers

Workplace-based mental health issues are ubiquitous, and though many employees can work while suffering from within, the effect often has an impact on productivity. When it becomes a bit more severe, a smart employer will undoubtedly see it and offer to help the affected employees.

While advising any staff member who is mentally ill or unstable, it is the responsibility of the counselor to be as discreet and confidential as possible.

Again, while managing mental health issues, the tone of discussion matter a lot. It shouldn’t contain any element of stigma and prejudice or show some criticism to the affected. Wrong or critical tone can leave the employee feeling let down, misunderstood, cynical and hopeless.

The Dos

  • Observe any changes amongst your staff and focus on such factors as mood, lateness, appearance, and productivity. There’s nothing wrong with checking on them individually.
  • If you choose a bossy type behavior, it's a bad call. Arrive early and demonstrate what you stand far in actions, be at the forefront, being pushy may hinder your instincts from noticing any bad behavior of your co-workers.
  • Offer to help without waiting for the employee to approach you. A soft approach like “I noticed your productivity is going down, any problem?” or “Are you OK? May I help?” so that they open up and feel safe with your offer.
  • As part of your meeting agendas, do refer to mental problems so that employees understand that you aren’t new to their predicaments. Familiarity reduces stigma.
  • When approached by an employee, who is mentally unstable, be willing to help, but understand everything regarding disclosure.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t presume everything regarding the smooth working of the organization, employees’ mood and expected productivity just because you are the one who hired them.
  • Don’t be ready to judge an employee without first finding out. Maybe the problem isn’t workplace-related.
  • Don’t a strict authoritarian as it may lower their morale and install the “careless” and “I don’t care” attitude.

Resolving Mental Health in the Workplace

As an employer, having the confidence to engage employees and find out what could be wrong doesn’t require any particular expertise whatsoever. At the core are the supportive performance management strategies that include:

  •       Communicating and counseling without judging and assuming anything regarding the employee’s manners.
  •       Understanding and managing how you react to the employee’s behavior and performance.
  •       Being transparent and supportive with your counsel.
  •       Prepare for a conversation with the affected and ensure you capture all contentious issues.

Let’s remember that mental health is part of an employer's safety obligations. And due to the fact that mental ill health is a disability, it's a requirement to provide a workplace adjustment if required.

Just like in Mr. Brown’s case, had the employer understood him, perhaps the bad feelings, trauma, and envy wouldn’t have occurred. We can liken mental health support that athletes require upon arriving from a global competition to what any employee would need after a hectic day in office or out there. It is part of the drill, and it is the role of the manager to ensure everything gets back to normal.

It's about personal difficulties every person can face up with at work and why it's important for employer to notice and influence that. With an example of a Jeremiah Brown's story.

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