Dealing with mental health issues isn’t my job. Is it?

When we think of what a company is worth, we think of its assets. British Airways owns 263 aircraft. That is easy to understand. It doesn’t own its 39,000 employees. But not one aeroplane takes off without a well-functioning, integrated team that the company can rely on to work safely and turn up every day.

Research shows that a combination of stress and inactivity loses UK industry 27 days of productive time per employee each year. If an aircraft failed that often, heads would roll. Engineers are tasked with fixing machines with monkey wrenches, but looking after employees is a far more delicate issue, which line managers need help and training to deal with.

Recognising stress and mental health problems is not easy. Employees may take time off for odd reasons, be unproductive or unhappy at work, but the hard part is doing something about it and that is where Maudsley Learning at Work can help managers by training them to start the dialogue.

Employers have a responsibility to make sure that employees are fit for a job and will be happy and looked after doing it. However, your staff don’t always see it that way. A survey has shown that only 20 percent of low or no-engagement staff thought their manager cared about them.

It’s easy to spot when deadlines are being missed. Talking about why they are being missed is harder. Being able to relate to your employees and talk about their wellbeing and happiness can make you feel uncomfortable, but it is an important step in retaining skilled employees. If one of your employees is off work for more than six months with a mental health issue, they have only a 20 percent chance of returning to work within five years – and that may not be for you. And Oxford Economics estimates that replacing a member of your team who earns more than £25,000 comes in at £30,614.

The Office for National Statistics found in a study that “the output per hour in the UK was 20 percentage points below the average for the rest of the major G7 advanced economies, the widest productivity gap since comparable estimates began in 1991.”

There is a clear relationship between mental health, employee engagement and productivity and it is important to train line managers to develop engaged and productive teams – this is something that Maudsley Learning at Work can help with.

Being open about wellbeing isn’t that hard – it is usually about listening. No one expects us to be Dr Freud, but how hard it is to say, “And how are things otherwise with you?”

And then wait. People usually want to talk, they usually don’t know when someone wants to listen.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is relationships – celebrating the connections, the relationships and the people in our lives that add to our wellbeing and protect and sustain our mental health. As a manager, you have great role to play in reducing stress and the risk of mental ill health by being a good colleague and leader.

The Mental Health Foundation recommends that – more than healthy diet or exercise – strong social networks improve our mental wellbeing and that includes where we spend much of our time: at work.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Maudsley Learning at Work will explore the importance of how you look at your relationships with your employees and how this is crucial to enabling better workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Through an informal discussion initiated by a panel of experts, we will host a morning where attendees will have a unique opportunity to take part in informal discussions and share ways in which the relationship between a manager and an employee plays a vital role in breaking the stigma of mental health issues and promoting mental health in the workplace. We will look at why skills-based leadership training in awareness and understanding mental health is a critical first step to drive this change in attitude in the workplace.

At work, we take care that all of our assets are carefully looked after, from a photocopier to a Boeing 747. It is time that we started to look after the people who we have employed and trusted to run them.

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