Health and Safety

How Do You Manage Mental Health at Work?

Employer Mental Health Overview

As an employer, there are certain responsibilities that you need to address regarding mental health at work for yourselves and your employees. Mental health is just as important as physical health for us all. Therefore, mental illness may be detrimental to a person, as it impacts happiness, productivity, and collaboration. Mental health issues may affect organisations, in the form of:

  • Turnover,
  • Absenteeism,
  • Inability to perform roles to a high standard,
  • Substance abuse,
  • Work-related accidents,
  • Workplace violence or harassment.

What are Mental Health Issues?

Mental health issues are any conditions that affect an individual’s state of mind. As a result, these conditions may include mild depression, stress and severe anxiety which may result in burnout and nervous breakdowns. Also, substance and alcohol abuse may also perpetuate mental health issues. Therefore, mental health problems manifest in different ways. Some individuals may suffer from no physical side effects, while others may experience physical symptoms (e.g., increased blood pressure, lethargy, changes in eating habits.)

Is Bad Mental Health Considered a Disability?

A mental health condition is considered a disability if it:

  • Has a ‘substantial adverse effect’ on the life of an employee (for example, they regularly cannot focus on a task, or it takes them longer to do),
  • Lasts at least 12 months, or is expected to,
  • Affects their ability to do their normal day-to-day activities (for example, interacting with people, following instructions, or keeping setting working times).

This is defined under the Equality Act 2010, and therefore individuals at work with a mental health condition that is classed as a disability cannot be discriminated against under UK law.

Postive Mental Health at Work – ACAS Video

ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have a broad range of resources for supporting mental health at work. Below is a short video on positive mental health at work.

Factors that Contribute to Mental Health Issues

Individuals may experience mental health issues for various reasons that an organisation cannot control (e.g. hereditary, family conflicts, general health). Also, there are work-related reasons for mental health problems, including:

  • Excessive pressure,
  • Work-life imbalance,
  • Lack of appreciation,
  • Hostile workplace conditions,
  • Unsatisfactory job or workload,
  • Unpleasant relationships with colleagues or managers.

An organisation’s leaders aim to recognise and address cases of workplace pressures that contribute to mental health issues.

Fatigue and Mental Health at Work

Fatigue is a serious issue, especially in the manual labour industry that leads to mental health issues at work. As a result, long hours and complex work can lead to mental and physical exhaustion for staff. Therefore, staff should not be asked to work unrealistic hours, and rotas should be drawn up to ensure multiple days with long hours are not consecutive and ensure enough time for sufficient rest. As part of this time management, all hours should be analysed, and potential rota issues pointed out and acted upon.

Identifying Mental Health at Work Issues

Identifying issues should be proactive and reactive and there are several ways to identify issues before they cause problems. Examples of identifying issues are:

  • Monitor disciplinary, grievance, bullying and harassment incidents to assess whether there are unhealthy attitudes and behaviours, and enabling actions to improve the workplace,
  • Monitor accidents, incidents and near misses and ensure that the individuals involved are supported and debriefed after the fact,
  • Train staff and volunteers annually on this policy,
  • Provide training and support in the workplace for all staff and volunteers, encouraging growth and identifying both achievements and needs via annual appraisals,
  • Ensure that Managers lookout for issues relating to individual and team:
    • Morale,
    • Stress levels that are higher than usual,
    • Changes in behaviours,
    • Rises in sickness
    • Anything that could indicate a mental health issue in a member of staff or volunteers,
    • Anything that may contribute to mental health conditions or lower staff wellbeing.

What You Need to Do as An Employer

As a responsible employer, you should:

  • Treat mental health and illness seriously.
  • Identify issues proactively and resolve the contributing factors within your organisation.
  • Support employees who face mental health problems.
  • Create a pleasant work environment.
  • Provide individual support including where necessary, risk assessments and reasonable adjustments; and
  • Seek to foster a mentally healthy culture by running regular initiatives to raise awareness of mental health issues at work.

You should also signpost your employees to an Occupational Health Specialist or engage one permanently depending on the size of your company. This document gives information on how to approach a sensitive conversation regarding mental health with employees. If you are looking to update your work policies for mental health at work, please contact us and we will be able to provide the best policies for your organisation type.


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