Following health and safety protocols is essential for your business. It protects everyone, allows your business to operate efficiently and remain compliant, and it’s the law. However, health and safety protocols tend to focus primarily on physical procedures, whilst mental health issues often end up on the back burner.

This is a grave oversight that’s bad for the individual and your business. If employees are constantly stressed, worried or struggling in any way, without support, it’s harder for them to focus on work or perform their duties safely and efficiently. And, when it comes to following or even caring about the correct protocols, chances are they simply won’t.

Your health and safety procedures will never be 100% effective if you ignore the emotional wellbeing of your employees.

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Here are some points to consider.

Employers have a duty of care to protect the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, yet it’s often the case that managers don’t consider this their responsibility. Mental health is also a difficult and sensitive subject to broach, but ignoring it leads to mistakes, accidents and resignations. That’s not good for the staff or the business.

The Financial Cost of Ignoring Mental Health

In the UK mental health issues lead to huge financial losses. The following statistics are yearly in each case.

An estimated 70 million workdays are lost as a result of mental health issues. The financial cost of staff absences is around £6.8bn and staff turnover due to mental health issues costs approximately £8.6bn. The final statistic is particularly concerning; an average of £27bn in lost productivity each year. This relates to staff that continue to work despite having mental health issues.

How to Make a Difference

Mental health and wellbeing are particularly challenging topics right now, but there are positive steps you can take to support your staff during this difficult time, and many are simple.

  • Check-in with your staff regularly, and not just those who report directly to you. Be approachable and make contact with as many people as possible (depending on the size of your organisation).
  • Ensure your managers do the same with their teams.
  • Be open and approachable. Talk about mental health issues and encourage your people to as well.
  • If possible, provide independent counselling where needed.
  • Offer flexible working conditions, and not just in lockdown – home working or flexitime for example.
  • Monitor workloads and reorganise if someone is struggling.
  • Review the situation regularly. Things are constantly changing – are your measures appropriate right now?

Look for Warning Signs

Your employees are unlikely to be open about mental health issues, but you can spot warning signs if you’re vigilant. Take note of uncharacteristic behaviour; irritability, aggression, over-reaction, extra-long working hours, indecision, increased sick days can all be clues that something is amiss. Of course you should never assume, but it’s worth checking with a friendly, non-judgemental chat.

Leading Companies Do This Already

The most successful businesses are run by happy, confident, loyal and motivated people, and they work hard to keep it like that. Innocent Drinks, Ernst and Young, Sweaty Betty, Barclays and Iceland all support their staff with a variety of measures – healthcare packages, counselling, yoga sessions at lunchtime, and in general promoting a company culture where issues can be discussed without judgement and achieving a good work/life balance is important.

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