The ‘season to be jolly’ has concluded and for some the post-holiday return to work ushers in the ‘January blues’. For many, this time of the year is difficult to cope with, both physically and mentally.

Adjusting back into a busy life and work after the holiday period can feel daunting and, for some, overwhelming. While the new year brings an opportunity for a fresh start, for some it can feel like an added stress. (Read our blog on Helping Your Team Avoid Employee Burnout).

With a reported one in four people experiencing mental health related problems each year in the UK, employers and managers need to be aware of the signs that their employees may be suffering with poor mental health. Conditions that can arise from stress commonly include depression and anxiety, which can escalate without help. These conditions are just as serious as a physical illness, and for this reason we must be aware of mental health, especially in the workplace.

Why Employers Should Care

Mental health has the potential to impair employees and cause them to struggle with their performance, as well as hinder their relationships with their peers. It can also lead to high rates of absenteeism. According to a recent report by Acas, the estimated cost of mental health issues to UK employers is around £33-42bn a year.

A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development revealed areas most impacted as a result of poor employee mental health:

  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
  • 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.
  • 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
  • 62% take longer to do tasks
  • 80% find it difficult to concentrate

Further to this, the latest Health and Well-being at Work Survey shows that more and more employers are becoming aware of their vital role in providing employees with a healthy environment to work, but stress remains stubbornly common in the UK. Stress related sick leave is on the rise in nearly two fifths of the UK’s workplaces and less than half of employers say their efforts to tackle stress are effective.

Investing in mental health awareness and stress prevention, as part of a well-being programme is essential for businesses for a number of reasons:

1. Create Prevention

Stress can be considered a trigger of mental ill health. The term ‘stress’ is not always helpful as it means different things to different people.  Everyone feels under pressure at some time but not everybody suffers the adverse reaction of stress, or the same level of stress.

It is impossible to completely eliminate stress in the workplace particularly in jobs that are inherent with targets, deadlines and difficult interactions.  However, creating realistic deadlines, clearly communicating job objectives and fostering a workplace culture where people feel able to discuss stress is the first step to prevention.

2. Early Intervention: Be Proactive and Aware

As a line manager, it is important to ask questions in the right way and provide signposting. This might mean taking the time to meet with your employees if you feel something is not quite right. It isn’t your job to diagnose depression or anxiety, but opening up a conversation can make your employee feel supported and prompt them to seek the right help.

3. Understand the Implication of Change

It’s not just about listening and reacting to workers’ struggles. Part of line managers’ responsibility as leaders is recognising how management style and the decisions you take can impact on mental health.

Strong leadership involves recognising personalities within your team and understanding how decisions affect each member. Don’t be afraid to have frank discussions about working preferences and expectations.

What can you do to help?

Aim to implement a good health and well-being strategy: look at low cost ways to start building a healthier workplace from the ground up:

  • Get to know your team better.
  • Lead by example to promote healthy working habits.
  • Review job design and workload.
  • Assess the management style within your organisation and see if this needs to be revised.

If your business would benefit from learning more about how to mitigate stress and improve mental health in the workplace, please get in touch and speak to one of our professional HR advisers today. We work with a wide range of clients, from professional services to manufacturing, hospitality and retail, and offer a completely bespoke service.

Sam Moxham

Chief People Officer

As Progeny’s Chief People Officer, Sam is driven by a passion for people and wants to see every business that she serves succeed.

Learn more about Sam Moxham