I used to work in Mental Health. An unlikely prior career for a recruiter, I know, but it was really interesting, often enjoyable and not without challenges, particularly in the maximum secure units. I did this at a time when mental health issues carried even more of a stigma than they do today and when seeking help for them was much harder and often seen as weakness. While we’ve come a long way, there’s still room for improvement.
Suicide remains the biggest killer amongst young men in the UK but how many of us are conscious of this and mindful of how we can help? How many employers have the right policies and support networks in place, or even really care about the mental well-being of their staff? Not enough would be my estimate.
So, what can we as employers do?
- Get to know your staff. No, really get to know them. Look around the office and answer, honestly, how many of the staff in your employment you know well enough to be able to name their partners, their children, to understand their pressures outside of work? If you don’t take an interest, you can’t expect them to approach you when they need support.
- Make review meetings, catch ups and one-to-one’s about more than just tasks and performance. How often do you leave a meeting with an employee actually understanding how they feel, rather than just whether they have hit their deliverables?
- Have a mentorship programme. Often your team, subordinates and employees won’t want to approach their boss to discuss personal challenges for fear it will be seen as weakness. This is particularly true if someone is already feeling vulnerable. A mentorship programme, where they have support from someone outside their chain of command can be a really useful port of call in these circumstances.
- Give them access to external resources. Global Accounting Network has a fantastic outsourced support programme for employee well-being, providing access to counsellors, advisors and experts in different areas for when someone is feeling overwhelmed and needs an ear.
- Actually care. This is the biggest one. The people who work for you are the lifeblood of your business: their health, wealth and well-being is inextricably linked to yours. Take a genuine interest in them, be approachable, be open and follow up when needed.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. I would ask that we use this week of mindfulness to ask ourselves what we can do, not just as employers, but as colleagues, team-mates and friends. Sometimes just a welcoming ear and a warm conversation can be the first step to someone getting significant help.
Date: 18 May 2018
Author: Adrian O'Connor
Tags: Mental Health, Employee Support