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What SMEs should do to support the mental health of their employees

Written by Simon Morgan, HR Dept South East London and North Kent.

90% of workers are affected by mental ill-health. That’s the finding of a report published earlier this month[1]. Given this shocking statistic, it’s pretty unsurprising then that work-related mental ill-health costs UK businesses up to £26 billion every year[2]. With such a high human and economic cost, it’s vital that all businesses – regardless of size – take action to ensure they are properly managing mental health.

So what can SMEs do?

  1. Make sure you know what you mean when talking about mental health

The first step to finding solutions is to really understand what you’re dealing with. You’ll be far better able to support your employees if you have a proper understanding of what mental health is, why it’s important and what causes mental ill-health. A good place to look is the ACAS framework for positive mental health at work.

  1. Provide training throughout the organisation

Don’t keep this knowledge to yourself – make sure it’s understood at every level of the organisation, both in terms of how to identify and support a colleague who may be suffering, but also how individuals can develop strategies to protect their own mental health.

  1. Encourage a sensible work-life balance

Not every job can be carried out during ‘normal’ office hours all of the time, but it’s important that mental health doesn’t suffer through busy periods. Encourage employees to take proper breaks during the day, discourage emailing out of hours, and allow flexible working wherever possible. And make sure you lead by example!

  1. Promote open conversations

The Accenture report found that many workers are still afraid to be open about their mental health challenges, with just over a third speaking to their line manager about their issues, and only 15% talking to their HR Department if they have one. Encourage open and regular conversations about mental health and the support available.

  1. Develop, implement and communicate a mental health policy

Ensure a consistent and comprehensive approach to mental health by creating a policy for your organisation. Include your business’ commitment to promoting positive mental health and to tackling the causes of work-related mental ill-health and to facilitating training for all staff, and set out where staff should turn when they need support or information. Develop the policy in consultation with staff, and make sure it’s reviewed and updated regularly.

Achieving good mental health at work isn’t a ‘nice to have’ but rather an essential. With mental ill-health leading to higher staff turnover, higher sickness absence, and lower productivity, it’s not something that you can afford to ignore.

For help on how to support mental health in your workplace, contact Simon Morgan at The HR Dept (South East London & North Kent) [email protected] 0345 634 9154.

[1] Accenture, 2018

[2] Federation of Small Businesses / MIND, 2018