Mental health strategies in the workplace

With the increasing focus on the impact of mental health and the struggles this can cause, it’s often easy to consider dismissal when aware of an employee’s disengagement and/or their quality of work slipping.

Whilst many employees can and do work while experiencing mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, with little impact on productivity, there will be some cases where an employee might be struggling to cope, and supportive performance management can be the key to continued productivity.

If you’ve hired an otherwise-strong team member—someone who’s smart, fits the culture, and has a good track record—training or reassignment is often a better solution. Here are some things you should consider:

Communicate without judgment. Personal struggles, health issues, and even a behind-the-scenes conflict in your organisation can dramatically affect work behaviour. That’s why it’s crucial to start with a kind and honest conversation. If the problem isn’t personal, there’s another root cause. Be aware of your assumptions and judgments about an employee’s behaviour. While assumptions or judgments are part of human behaviour, it is possible to communicate without allowing these to dictate or influence your response.

Explore training opportunities: Highlight the employee’s strengths first. This could include emphasising the employee’s efforts, value to the team and previous accomplishments. When mental health is a factor, it is especially important to engage the employee in developing their own solutions and build on existing strengths. If an employee needs to expand their skills, training is a great option.

Performance Improvement Plan: this could be a very effective way of not only helping the employee to set small achievable goals either weekly or monthly, but it will increase level of performance and productivity if the employee is working hard towards certain goals. Acknowledge with the employee that while the development of the review may seem tedious, it will provide long term value to help you gain a better understanding to support them in all aspects of their job.

Once you’ve considered training, new roles, and other HR techniques, such as a performance improvement plan (PIP), dismissal is the end of the road. And if you’ve reached this juncture, it should never be a surprise to your employee. The intent is to use this approach to help support success, uncover challenges and develop solutions.

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