Workplace Stress and Mental Health Awareness

One of the first things I want to mention in this piece is businesses need not invest a huge amount of time and resources to this subject if a positive workplace safety culture is evident throughout the business. This will obviously stem from a good workload and work-life balance, along with salaries and benefits (amongst other things). I suppose you could call this proactively managing your employees stress and mental wellbeing.

You or your employer should carry out a stress risk assessment to ascertain the risk of individuals succumbing to stress or any unnecessary pressures due to their work. The HSE recognises workplace stress and categorises the risks into 6x topics.

  1. Demands- work load.
  2. Control- control of work within the company.
  3. Support- training, management & mental health support.
  4. Relationships- working culture.
  5. Role- defined team roles and duties.
  6. Change- change management and the effects on the company.

I’ve recently finished a document for a client which looked at workplace stress but from a high level business perspective. Basically identifying the risks to the businesses and how those risks could negatively impact the individuals within the business.

A really good quote I found when researching Business Continuity Planning (how to stronghold your business and protect from local/national issues negatively impacting your business) is;

‘A holistic management process that identifies potential impacts that threaten an organisation and provides a framework for building resilience with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, employees, reputation, brand, and value-creating activities’

So what do you need to look for?

  • Changes in mood of individuals
  • Erratic behaviour- ups and downs
  • Work pattern constantly changing
  • Excess nerves
  • Personal life changes
  • Lack of motivation
  • Argumentative
  • Increased sickness absence

Sometimes the best course of action is to talk directly to the individual- ensuring this is carried out by a friend/close colleague. If this is something that is beyond the realms of the team, then escalate your concerns to your line manager, HR or union representative.

Remember to look out for each other. Everyone’s stress tolerance is different, some can withstand huge amounts of stress whilst others may not be as resilient. Respect their feelings, they’re human after all and are probably going through a hard time.

Something I’ve learnt as being a Mental Health First Aider- don’t compare their issues with yours. You might think you’re helping them by saying you’ve been through the same thing as them but you have no idea what impact it’s having on them, so you don’t really understand. Say things like ‘that sounds rough’ or ‘I can’t image what you’re going through/experiencing’. Let them take the lead on the conversation. Let them talk and pay attention, really listen to them. Ask open ended questions to get the person to open up.

Obviously only do this if your confident with having these conversations, a friend is a friend, but we’re not counsellors. Let the experts take control of the situation- escalate if necessary.

I think with the above information in mind, it’s really important for managers/supervisors to have some training in mental health awareness. They could spot the signs and help the individuals within the team to become more aware of each other’s situations.

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