A company culture based on trust and awareness of the fluidity of mental health is key to effectively supporting employee wellbeing in the workplace. This can be achieved through line management training in mental health awareness.
Mental ill health in the workplace – the raw facts:
- Stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 50% of all workdays lost due to ill health (HSE, data to March 2021, published December 2021*).
- 822,000 workers suffer from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) (HSE, data to March 2021, published December 2020*).
- 300,000 people with long-term mental health conditions leave work each year (Stevenson/Farmer, 2017).
- The overall cost to employers of absenteeism, workplace attendance is between £33bn and £43bn per year (Stevenson/Farmer review Mental Health and Employers (2017)).
- The average turnover rate per employee (making £25,000 or more per year) is £30,614. Which covers recruiting expenses, onboarding and training, and productivity loss. Lack of line management training in mental health awareness is one of key reasons of a high employee turnover.
How can the workplace provide effective support for their staff through line management training in mental health?
With these sobering statistics relating to mental ill health in the workplace. How can the workplace provide effective mental health support for their staff?
Ensuring that management at all levels really understand the fluidity of ‘mental health’. And how it changes over time, is fundamental to developing a supportive culture.
Mental health: Its association with being unwell
Many of us automatically relate to the words ‘mental health’ in the context of being unwell. Since of the way the term is commonly used in our language. For example, many organisations have put in place teams of staff to train as ‘mental health first aiders’ (MHFAs). In order to better support colleagues who may be experiencing poor mental health. Whilst the good intentions of MHFAs are all there. The title of ‘mental health first aider’, automatically focuses many to think of the term ‘mental health’ in association with being unwell. This, of course, is simply not true. This misconception often sets conversations in the workplace around mental health out of line from the start. And is counterproductive towards developing a culture that proactively supports the mental health and wellbeing of staff.
Mental Health Defined:
The world health organization (WHO) sets out a fair definition of the term Mental Health:
Mental Health is a condition of well-being in which each individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with everyday challenges, works creatively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community (World Health Organization, WHO)
Mental Health: Understanding the fluidity of mental health
From our own personal experience alone, most people understand the concept of the fluidity of physical health. It’s fair to say that it’s unusual for anyone to get through life without experiencing a spectrum of physical health issues that might trouble them from time to time. From a minor cough/cold to the irritation of an allergy, recovery from injury, dealing with musculoskeletal pain and disability to potentially having to cope with life-changing diseases, such as diabetes or cancer, the list is endless. And of course, we all know and accept how the state of our physical health can affect our ability to work. If you are taken out with a serious bout of flu, everyone understands that you are not well to work. Rest and recuperation is expected and encouraged.
Are we less forgiving about mental health?
Whilst we all relate entirely to the roller coaster ride of physical health through our life. When it comes to mental health, we are generally less understanding, less compassionate, less accommodating to ourselves and others. When we are not feeling mentally AI and on top of our game.
What needs to be understood is that our mental health is just as fluid as physical health, in fact, even more so; it’s just not commonly recognized in this way.
Therefore, an important component in managing mental health in the workplace is for all levels of management to understand this. And to appreciate the factors that can influence this roller coaster of mental health fluidity.
We all have transient fluidity of mental health
Everyone’s state of mental health naturally shifts over time. As an example, one poor night’s sleep alone can leave us or a colleague feeling cranky and out of sorts. And less than ‘ok’ to deal with the demands of the day stretching ahead. But hopefully, with a good night’s sleep the following night, we feel recovered, and able to face our daily pressures. This is an example of a transient dip in our level of ‘mental health’. Most of us experience this transient, daily fluid movement in mental health… from great (hopefully) to good ….to ok ….to maybe not so good and hopefully back up again to good! For some of us, these fluctuations in how we feel can occur infrequently. While for others every day is a challenge.
For some employees, feeling low and out of sorts can be overwhelming and may require to have some time off. Increasing awareness about the fluidity of mental health, especially across management levels, will help to erase the stigma and preconceptions connected with mental health in the workplace.
Building awareness in the causes of fluctuation in mental health
Line managers need to understand how multiple factors affect our mental health. From how well we are supporting our general health and wellbeing through sleep, exercise, nutrition, hydration work/life balance etc. To external influences such as work and life events and everyday stresses and pressures. Our ability for staff to bounce back from episodes of poor mental health will be influenced by these multiple factors.
Line management training in mental health
- According to the IOSH survey, 62% of the interviewees line managers said they do not get enough help from their organisation to support their employees in mental health.
- 79% of respondents, said that in most cases line management training in mental health is optional.
According to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) organisations must strengthen the role of line managers in creating awareness of the mental health of employees through a supportive leadership style and creating a trusting environment within the team.
Senior management role
Senior management play a crucial role in promoting mental health awareness in the organisation. Employees need to know and feel that the company’s senior management really cares about their health.
When should an employee encourage to seek help for poor mental health?
If managers become aware of a member of staff that is struggling and feeling low over a period of say two weeks or more. And they are finding it difficult or even impossible to get back on an even keel again, then it’s best to encourage them to seek help.
10 Responsibilities of Line Managers in relationship to Supporting Mental Wellbeing of Staff
It is a line manager’s responsibility to:
- Establish trust, not only between themselves and members of their team, but also between team members.
- Promote a healthy working atmosphere within their team and to promote good interaction and teamwork.
- Take the time to get to know the staff they look after, so that they are more likely to notice a change in the emotional wellbeing of employees and identify unusual patterns of behavior. For example, if an employee’s occasional absence becomes more frequent or if a previously extravert individual has become more closed and silent. It is worth talking to them about your concerns.
- Be aware of the stress that can be associated with a new role. Provide support and be aware of the needs of any new team members in relation to supporting their mental health and wellbeing.
- Talk openly and supportively to staff and encourage them to discuss any worries and concerns they may have.
- Nurture and develop their skills in having conversations about stress and dealing with pressure.
- Try and incorporate face-to-face meetings, not just virtual (if this is possible). And use this time to discuss workload and plan work effectively together.
- Encourage conversation and engagement on mental health and wellbeing. Ensure that staff have an awareness as to the fluidity of mental health and the influencing factors that can support good mental health. Ensure that the staff have an interest in looking after themselves and getting a good work/life balance. Build this focus into performance reviews to emphasise its importance and relationship to performance.
- Employees should be well-supported in their tasks and regularly praised for how their actions contribute to the productivity.
- Last, but not least, a manager should be a role model for his employees in promoting wellness and mental health in the workplace: mental health and stress management techniques.
Providing good quality line management training in mental health is a great starting point to lay the foundations for management levels to develop an understanding of mental health in the context of its fluidity. Once an understanding of the fluidity of mental health is clearly explained, training should go on to clarify the many influencing lifestyle factors that can support individuals with their mental health. It’s this deeper knowledge that will allow a manager to have those all-important supportive and caring conversations with members of their team that may be experiencing fluctuation poor mental health.
Beyond Line Management Training in Mental health
Beyond Line Managers Training in mental health awareness, line managers should be given opportunities to deepen and expand their knowledge in supporting staff with mental health and wellbeing. Continuous professional development (CPD) can get further support through Educational Wellbeing Talks and Webinars, and regular Health and Wellbeing Publications. Another way to support management is of course through the development of teams of Mental First Aider’s and Wellbeing Champion teams across organisations.
How Thrive4Life can help!
Thrive4Life can provide customised Line Manager training as well as MHFA and Wellbeing Champion training. We offer health promotion in the form of an extensive library of engaging content with well-designed articles / ePublications and monthly specialist talks on all aspects of health and wellbeing.
For companies who are looking for support with a strategy and ongoing process of health and wellbeing engagement that they can build over time, Thrive4Life has used a backdrop of over 30 years’ experience of delivering specialist health, safety and wellbeing guidance across multiple industries to develop an innovative, cost-effective solution that can help any size of organisation in the form of a fully customisable Health and Wellbeing Discovery Hub.
For more information about Thrive4Life services and training courses, get in touch or call us on 020 8972 9675.
Employee health and wellbeing: CIPD viewpoint. CIPD. (2022). Retrieved August 5, 2022, from https://www.cipd.co.uk/news-views/viewpoint/employee-health-well-being
For workplaces. MHFA Portal. (2020). Retrieved August 5, 2022, from https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/resources/for-workplaces/
Work-related stress and how to manage it. HSE. (2022). Retrieved August 5, 2022, from https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/overview
Workplace wellbeing – Iosh. (2019). Retrieved August 5, 2022, from https://iosh.com/media/4174/managing-occ-health-the-role-of-line-managers-in-promoting-positive-mental-health.pdf