Nicola Stout

Nicola Stout

Do A Mental Health Check!

We are often reading about wellness and mental health, but do you know the warning signs to be aware of amongst your staff?

And what if you do identify there may be an issue – then what?

The main points to watch out for amongst your employees are actually quite straightforward to monitor, and some you already do. Knowing what to look out for is key as is seeing the ’bigger picture’.

  1. Unusual displays of emotion – tears, anger or even being unnaturally stubborn about something, generally being irritable, moody or even a little irrational
  2. Constantly appearing tired with low energy levels often including being disorganised
  1. Generally aching – headaches, backaches
  1. Increased sick leave, possibly short, irregular absences with a vague reason that doesn’t require a GP visit
  1. A change in timekeeping, probably being late and just not quite functioning as well as previously but could be very early starts (through not sleeping)
  1. Socially disinterested – withdrawn from socialising, office antics and preferring their own company
  1. Increased use of alcohol, smoking or drugs, perhaps a more dishevelled appearance
  1. Poor / reduced performance

Any of these may be the first thing that you notice, but until you can see a pattern or a combination of events, it’s easy to dismiss as ‘one offs’.

It goes without saying (but we will!) that you want to address any issues your staff are having as there are numerous reasons why you want them happy, stable, well and on aboard. So, to address any issues you need accurate records. Performance, absences and timekeeping are easy ones, and you will have this already being noted and they should, with correctly written policies and procedures in place, already have a 121-meeting embedded in the process.

Some of these events may warrant an impromptu 121 immediately – a tearful outburst in a meeting or someone dressed untidily breaking your dresscode, for example.

From an employer’s perspective, it’s important to note that the mental health issues that are beginning to show may be work based and therefore likely to be solvable in some shape or form from within the workplace or it could be  home based and therefore very personal. Either way its important to have the confidence of your staff for them to know that you are genuinely offering your support, and although you may not be able to solve their problems you are able to help in some way.

The 121 meetings should be confidential and if you are hosting the meeting you should be prepared for a whole range of emotions, regardless of gender. Have the tissues to hand. You should offer a sympathetic and empathic listening ear, allowing time for your employee to be honest and open with you. For some it may be the first time that they have spoken about the stress and anxiety that they are experiencing, and if it stems from outside the workplace its even more likely that they haven’t spoken to anyone else.

At best, the relief of talking may be enough to get some clarity on the situation, at worst you will be suggesting a leave of absence and signposting towards other organisations to assist. This could be advising a GP visit or talking to a third party who specialises in the topic – perhaps addiction, domestic violence, debt management or stress management.

The best advice we can give you as the employer is:

  • Keep the confidence (as long as it is safe to do so)
  • If you promise a follow up a meeting, schedule it and make sure it happens
  • If you promise to assist with researching or signposting to alternative help, make sure you do so in a timely manner and deal with it sensitively
  • Be aware of your company policies and any precedents so that you work within any predetermined constraints