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You may have heard that the Duke of Cambridge is championing a new online initiative by Mind, a charity which supports mental health in the workplace. With nearly half the nation’s workers experiencing mental health problems in their place of work, it’s about time we talked about it.

A healthy mind, after all, is as important as a healthy body. And those who need our help are, all too often, staying silent.

How to spot a struggling employee

Studies tell us that 25% of employees experiencing mental health struggles at work aren’t talking about what they’re going through1. It doesn’t help that the signs can be hard to spot – or that there’s still stigma around the subject.

I think, as leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure we keep an eye out for when things aren’t quite right. We can’t wait for employees to come to us, or simply ask them how they’re doing. It’s too easy for someone to say “I’m fine” when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

For many reasons – such as not wanting to jeopardise a promotion or feeling embarrassed – they may not be comfortable taking the first step. So, don’t be afraid to take initiative. Early action can do a lot of good, even if it’s letting them know you’re there to listen.

Why work effects mental health

There have been instances over the years where employees have stepped into my office, only to break down into tears. Sometimes, it’s personal – but often, they’re looking to share what they’ve been experiencing at work.

While we need to stop thinking of crying as a sign of weakness – and know that it’s healthy to let it all out – when it happens in the office, it’s also a clear sign that we need to change how we work.

Many factors contribute to mental health, and we should try our best to make sure work isn’t one of them. Some stress is inevitable, productive even. But we need to ask ourselves – how much is too much?

Being honest about how happy your people are can help your business. For example, if you know that busy production schedules or tight deadlines will put a lot of pressure on members of your team, can you find ways to support them better, or avoid it?

However, it all starts with letting people know you care about their mental well-being – and creating an environment where it’s okay to talk about these things.

Doing better as a company

“100% mental health” is a myth. No one is fine all the time. We all have periods where we feel down, whether this is work-related or personal pressures. What’s important is that your employees know they can come to you if they need support – whether that’s time off or help with everyday work.

You might, as a leader, want to take personal action. But your energy is best spent making sure you put things on paper, in the form of policies, practices and training.

As a leader, the future of people’s careers are in your hands. By taking care of their mental health, you can help them thrive. That, in turn, helps your business thrive too.

As a business owner, how do you support your employees’ mental wellbeing?

You can find a whole variety of tools to help you manage mental health at the workplace at Mind’s online hub

Further reading

Can stress be good for business? How to get the balance right

by Matt Perry

A healthy business needs healthy employees 

by Donna Bulmer

1Half of workers have experienced poor mental health in current job

Find and contact your local Haines Watts office

About the author

Donna Bulmer

With over 20 years’ experience, Donna is Managing Partner in the North East. Having facilitated the growth of the region’s two offices and almost doubled turnover over a four year period, she is now helping to drive national strategy through her position on the Haines Watts board. As well as advising growing owner-managed businesses, Donna spends a great deal of her time working with voluntary sector organisations and, as such, is one of the leading voices for the not-for-profit sector in the Haines Watts group. She is a strong advocate of social issues and diversity in the workplace, and is using her board position to help businesses understand the importance of corporate social responsibility. On top of this, she is a Trustee and Treasurer for local charity Streetwise Young Peoples Project and sits on the Finance Sub-committee of national charity Changing Lives.

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