The Steps for Mental Wellbeing – Spotting the signs
By Desiree Anderson and Jane Graham
These days everyone is feeling a loss of control due to the intense changes we have all experienced. Boundaries between work and life, sickness and health have blurred and with it has come the tendency for our brain to dwell on the flight-flight response. Younger people have been spending less time with their peers and have had education disrupted and families have in some cases not been able to say goodbye to loved ones. Add to these issues job insecurity, business upheaval and government-imposed restrictions. All of these variables could lead us down a difficult mental health path in organisations if not tempered by a practical framework of intervention.
“More than half of adults (60%) and over two-thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during lockdown” -Mind 2020
What legislation protects Mental Health and Wellbeing?
There is a lot of legislation regarding Mental Health. The key pieces of legislation are:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASWA) is the primary piece of legislation
covering workplace health and safety in Great Britain.
- Mental Health Act 1983 (updated 2007) establishes robust safeguards to protect the
rights, dignity and autonomy of people with mental illness.
- Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) forms the basis of all laws, including mental health.
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations(1999) introduced a
general duty for employers to carry out risk assessments.
- The Equality Act (2010) outlines actions employers need to take to help people with
disabilities. This includes many people with a mental illness.
- The Care Act’s (2014) primary function is to help protect vulnerable adults to
improve their quality of life.
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought mental health and wellbeing to the fore of all of our minds, as the pressures of lockdown and the changed world post first lockdown has affected us all in different ways. Knowledge of spotting the signs of poor mental wellbeing in both ourselves as leaders and our teams will become an essential component of workplace success going forward.
What are the signs of poor mental wellbeing to look out for in the workplace?
MIND, the mental health charity in the UK gives guidelines for identifying signs of stress.
Some of the signs we may spot in our employees are:
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- constantly worrying
- high pitched or defensive tone of voice
- lack of interaction/disinterest
- avoiding situations that are troubling them
- snapping at people
- biting their nails
- picking at their skin
- inability to concentrate
- restlessness and battling to sit still
- being tearful or crying
If you see your employees exhibiting any of these symptoms on a consistent basis it may be cause for concern. A tip here would be to have a policy or process for wellbeing with
guidelines of where to refer someone either within or externally. Remember that you need to take care not to infringe someone’s dignity by assuming that there is a problem so it’s about getting to know your team, and taking advice should you feel that something is badly amiss. With the advent of remote working and the coronavirus concerns some of the poor mental health you witness may not be work-related but to do with overall welfare concerns and home demands. Poor wellbeing if left long-term could cause debilitating mental health issues. With the Mental Health First Aid training we do at Action Plus First Aid we are finding increased mental health concerns are being raised and the need for Mental Health training in
From the Coaching we do at Crest Coaching & HR we are definitely seeing a blurring between work and life coaching as more people are looking at their lives holistically rather than compartmentalising between work and home. We also have increased demand for
leadership training in this area.
The key as a leader is to show concern for wellbeing in the workplace and develop a culture where it is not seen as a stigma. By taking a step to tackle these issues we minimise the harmful effects on both the employees and the workplace.
“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the
biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step.” -Naeem Callaway
Listening will become one of the key skills for leaders. The SOLAR technique pioneered by Gerard Egan is a tried and tested way of listening without judgement. Here are tips on listening incorporating parts of the model.
- Sit squarely in front of the employee especially at a 5 o clock position to avoid
staring. If on zoom look at the screen but vary your eye contact by sipping a coffee,
using a variety of visuals and sometimes allowing yourself and the participant to turn the screen off or have a break.
- Vary work and general discussion to relax the individual.
- Keep body language open and lean forward to show interest.
- Use a relaxed and friendly tone of voice and allow pauses in the conversation.
- Use open questions to go a bit deeper with the individual.
- Refer an individual to an appropriate internal or external advisory e.g. Employee
Assistance Program if you feel that the issues are beyond your management expertise.
Research shows that for every £1 invested in mental health intervention in the workplace there is a return of between £5 and £8.
It’s definitely worth investing time in ensuring a mental wellbeing culture in your workplace. Spotting the signs and improving managerial support will no doubt nurture a culture of acceptance and understanding in the future. Mental wellbeing is no longer the unspoken problem in organisations but has now come into the spotlight and requires urgent steps to ensure that leaders understand the actions to be taken right now.