In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week, according to mental health charity Mind. In recent years, acknowledgement and support for mental health concerns has widened across the UK, yet in the workplace open discussion on the topic is far from common practice.

Why must we address mental health concerns in the workplace?

A recent study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development highlighted the impact on business of poor mental health in employees. The study found the following:

The study also found that for the first time stress is now a major cause of long-term absence in manual and non-manual workers.  Findings like these are hard to ignore and added to this I would highlight some additional concerns:

How can Performance Management Software help to address mental health issues in the workplace?

1. Recognising there is an issue

One of the biggest challenges faced is recognition. Those suffering from mental health issues may be in denial themselves, hoping that the problem will somehow disappear. Those that do recognise a problem exists may be fearful of raising this with someone senior in the organisation in fear that it will have a negative impact, perhaps through hindering work projects, promotional opportunities or worst resulting in a dismissal.

On the other side, managers may be so engrossed in their own workload as to not recognise an employee under strain, or they may recognise an issue but feel incapable of approaching the matter. When using a performance management software effectively, managers will be having regular one to one’s with their team. Holding regular one to one’s will help recognise and address mental health issues in the following ways:

Using a performance management system like Actus you could set up a section under one to one’s for wellbeing. This works well where there is a trust culture but not if it is being used as a mere ‘tick box’ exercise.  Promoting a visible awareness and understanding of mental health issues in the workplace, where the lines of communication are opened up and employees feel that the response will be non-judgemental and non-threatening is of great importance for this to work.

Managing absence effectively can also raise alarm bells to managers where an employee is showing unusual patterns of absence due to stress or anxiety. Using a system like Actus allows you to use The Bradford Factor to monitor this too.

2. Create an open and honest culture

If you create an open and honest culture within your organisation, there is a greater change of employees raising issues earlier on. Regularly conducting employee surveys is one great way of gaging the general wellbeing within your organisation in an anonymous way. These can be managed easily within your performance management software and can be carried out on a regular basis.

Another great way of using company culture to support those with mental health issues is to set up core company values that people can be measured against. For example, by using Actus Performance Management Software these values can be used by members of staff to show recognition for others that have practised them. The values could encourage support towards others suffering from mental health issues and an example of how they are shown in the Actus Performance Management System is shown below:

3. Champion wellbeing in the workplace

There exists a strong link between physical and mental wellbeing. We are not only hearing the negative statistics, such as depression being linked to a 67% increased risk of death from heart disease, we are also learning about the positive impact that physical exercise can have on mental wellbeing.

Often fitting in exercise around our work and personal commitments can seem like an insurmountable task. Introducing initiatives into the workplace that help to address this problem can encourage employees to get moving and feel the benefits for doing so. Whilst most of us will not be taking on Virgin’s approach of offering all their Virgin Active employees complimentary membership for themselves and a buddy, you could arrange a weekly yoga class during lunch hours, set up a walking club or organise a charity fun run.

As well as physical exercise you could encourage mental wellbeing through mindfulness initiatives such as painting workshops or meditation sessions.  Some of these initiatives could also be used to create fun and mildly competitive objectives that can be set in your performance management software and motivate employees to achieve them.

Performance Management Software is part of a wider picture

Above I have highlighted some of the ways an organisation can address mental health through the effective use of a performance management system. Just as the topic of mental health is complex, so too is the issue of how we address it; with each instance being unique and other factors needing to be considered, such as providing managers with training on how to deal with sensitive subjects. What is important is that we shake up the culture of silence that still pervades around the topic of mental health and put a strategy in place to tackle it as best we can to avoid the damaging effects turning a blind eye can have.

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