Today is Blue Monday, described as the gloomiest day of the year due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights, and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills. When compounded with lower motivation levels and evidence showing most people have given up on their new year’s resolutions by this point in the year, employers may need to be mindful of their employees wellbeing and look out for the signs of poor mental health. Our resident Mental Health First Aider, Sarah Savident provides her insights on what to look out for and what actions & considerations employers can put in place to help support employees in such situations.
Key signs may include:
- Poor concentration
- Reduced levels of performance and outputs
- Acting out of character especially if becoming more introverted
- Exhibiting greater levels of fatigue
- Avoiding social activities especially if this is uncommon for the employee
- Having difficulty expressing themselves, talking very fast or jumping between topics and ideas
- Greater levels of irritability and/or noticeable signs of stress
- Increased absence levels
Sarah promotes the importance of managers getting to know their teams and to be able to identify the warning signs. “It is important to understand each team members personality, ability and the way they like to work, to be able to establish an employee base line. It is also important to promote and reinforce a culture of openness on mental health and wellbeing and ensure employees are aware and feel that they can come and talk to you if they feel they are experiencing poor mental health”.
Where employees have experienced or are experiencing poor mental health, or have taken absence from work as a result of a mental health condition, there are some other specific actions that organisations and managers may take:
- Keep in contact with the employee on a regular basis and ensure they remain updated on any key organisational communications or changes during any prolonged periods of absence.
- Make it clear that the employee should not rush back to work until they are ready.
- Refer to Occupational Health where appropriate or signpost other relevant services that could provide support (e.g. Mind Guernsey/Jersey).
- Consider phased returns to work – even where the employee is working from home and not returning to a physical workplace. Conduct a formal return to work meeting, even if this is conducted via online meeting or phone call.
- Discuss the support the employee needs to help them to make a successful return and support their mental health – this should include the role of the manager and how they can help.
- Ensure ongoing dialogue and regular contact is maintained following the return to work.
- Review performance objectives and workload – agree and make adjustments as necessary.
- Consider the benefits of undertaking an in-house wellbeing assessment or stress risk assessment with the employee to better understand their health issues and concerns and what support/actions may be needed.
- Consider appointing a mentor or buddy as an additional support – someone that the employee is comfortable reaching out to, and have regular check-ins.
One aspect employees may be concerned about which may be impacting their mental health, especially in January, is debt and money management. Sarah notes that providing financial wellbeing strategies are a core component in supporting mental health. Various options include seeking out web based portals and applications or Employee Assistance Programs that offer employers a one stop shop of useful information to help employees manage their money. “Developing simple user guides offering valuable tips and tools to help employees make the most of their money and sign post them to relevant agencies or charities is another option”.
Should you wish to develop a wellbeing strategy, feel free to get in touch with Sarah who would be happy to assist.