Following on from World Mental Health day, how can employers overcome stigmas and support staff suffering from mental health conditions?

Research has shown that 42% of UK employees call in sick citing a physical illness when the real reason is a mental health issue. The report found that over half of employees admitted suffering from stress, a third from anxiety and a quarter from depression. But, many workers suffer in silence and apparently only 15% would tell their employer the truth about having a mental health issue.

Open communication about mental health is essential and managers must reassure people that there are no stigmas around mental health. Ensuring that staff feel able to tell the truth will enable employers to properly support staff who have mental health issues at work.

It is important to talk about stress and mental health and in order to do this line managers will need guidance so that they are trained to recognise the early signs of stress and depression.  Employers should monitor absence and take short term absences seriously, conducting return to work meetings in order to allow employees space to discuss reasons for absence. During the return to work interview managers should feel equipped to probe the given reason for absence and to offer a listening ear to staff.

Ask if the employee needs support and let them know that the employer cares about their wellbeing.  If a mental health issue is identified, consider if flexible working arrangements or adjustments that might help. Allowing the employee to work from home one day a week, or come to work later might make all the difference to the issue and create stability to allow the employee to return to work.

Understanding employee issues and getting to the root causes of absenteeism can make a difference to the wellbeing of your teams and to promoting a healthy mental health culture at work.

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