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Over recent years there has been a significant increase in awareness around the issue of mental health in the workplace. Employers are now recognising this as a business critical issue which poses a threat to the wellbeing and productivity of their workforce.

After all, recent estimates from Deloitte in their report, "Mental Health and Wellbeing in Employment", show that poor mental health costs UK employers £33bn-£42bn each year. With this being said there are several successful methods which employers may choose to implement to help address mental ill health in the workplace.

The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has released guidance on mental health at work which would be a particularly useful place to start when looking to provide support to your workforce. ACAS specifically highlights the role of the manager in supporting employees who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

Whilst their prime responsibility will always be to ensure productivity and performance standards are met, a modern manager is encouraged to be approachable and vigilant of any changes in behaviour or unexplained absences which could be a sign of mental ill health.

Rather than create a culture of fear and pressure which is only likely to increase mental ill health, managers are encouraged to foster an open and considerate working environment in order to prevent stress and other depression related symptoms.

Affirming your organisation’s stance on mental health in a defined workplace plan will help to show your commitment to supporting employees during difficult times. Many employers are choosing to do this having been specifically recommended as part of the Prime Minister’s “Thriving at Work” report 2017.

A workplace plan can be designed to increase awareness of mental health within the business, encourage open conversations and promote effective people management. Taking efforts to conduct and implement a successful workplace plan will help to create a positive and supportive working environment which will reduce the stigma and impact of mental ill health in your organisation.

Employers should understand that staff may need to speak to qualified professionals in order to address mental health concerns. Those who offer private medical insurance (PMI) should consider that a vast majority of these firms now provide treatment and care for a variety of mental health issues. Employees who are entitled to benefits under your PMI scheme should be made aware of any available assistance on offer which may include one to one counselling sessions and assessments.

In a similar vein you could introduce an employer funded health cash plan which allows employees to draw cash payments which may be put towards everyday healthcare costs. Both PMI and health cash plans can be tailored to build a support system that is right for your organisation, helping to create a positive company culture and affirm your commitment to employee health and wellbeing.

Smaller employers who are perhaps unable to offer what is often expensive private medical cover to their staff could look to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to fill this void.

These independent companies are on hand to help staff deal with personal problems that may have a negative impact on their mental health and workplace performance such as debt, addictions, divorce etc.

Whilst the services offered by EAPs can differ, most offer literature and confidential counselling services on a number of issues varying from. EAPs represent a more accessible way for your employees to receive expert advice and assistance with everyday problems that can often be the root cause of mental ill health.

It would appear that money worries are a significant trigger when it comes to mental ill health. Numerous reports show employees to be increasingly concerned about their long and short term finances.

Whilst any significant intervention into employees’ finances may be overly intrusive, you could consider distributing literature containing money management advice alongside monthly pay slips.

You may even wish to arrange for workshops and expert speakers to visit the workplace and discuss tips for increased financial wellbeing with your employees.

Similar measures can also be used to promote initiatives such as healthy lifestyles and mindfulness techniques, each of which have proven popular ways to address and prevent mental ill health at work.

Employers who take a proactive approach to addressing mental health issues in the workplace achieve far more those who react only once a serious issue prevents itself.

Those who accept ensuring good mental health as an integral part of the success of their business are sure to be rewarded with positive results, not only in employee satisfaction levels but also in their company culture and bottom line.

David Price, Health Assured CEO and Wellbeing Expert

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