It’s not always easy to spot when one of your staff is struggling, and there’s still a certain amount of stigma around talking about mental health issues. This is a vicious cycle – if someone’s having a hard time and feels they can’t disclose that, more and more stress gets piled upon them. You may find their work starts to suffer, their home life might get worse and their performance could decline – they might even leave.

Clearly, you need to help them break that cycle, and ensure you and your management team are looking out for the signs of mental health problems in your staff. Almost 15% of people experience mental health issues in the workplace,1 but it’s often difficult to spot mental illness as, unlike a physical illness, there are no visible symptoms.

Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for:

Performance and engagement begin to decline

When you’re suffering from mental health issues, the outside world begins to matter less and less. While there are countless potential reasons for a decline in performance, it’s important to consider mental health if an employee begins to slip.

Tiredness, lethargy, low concentration and emotional outbursts can be indicators of poor mental health. Judgment, decision making and general energy levels are often affected, and this can have the knock-on effect of impacting work, which in turn can make people feel even worse about themselves.

Changes in personal habits and mood

Mental health issues can have physical effects – someone previously known to be bright and energetic can become sullen and withdrawn, they might lose interest in hobbies or activities they previously enjoyed, or their appetite or personal hygiene could alter dramatically. Their behaviour might change too – look for signs of increased irritability or anger that are out of character, as this could be a sign of anxiety or other disorders.

If someone suddenly becomes unwilling to communicate or socialise with others, it could be a cause for concern. Social isolation is actually a trigger for mental illness2, so by reducing their interaction they could inadvertently be making themselves feel worse.  

Sickness levels increase

There’s evidence to suggest nearly 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK are attributed to mental health reasons,1 but employees are often uncomfortable stating that stress, anxiety or depression are their reasons for staying off work. So regular, short-term and potentially unexplained absences are certainly a sign to look out for.

Increase in staff turnover

If you notice an increase in staff leaving your organisation, this could be for several reasons, but one of them could be due to a lack of employee health and wellbeing focus – staff who don’t feel that they are getting the support they need at work may well choose to find work elsewhere.

So as an employer, what can you do to minimise these issues, or help an employee who might be going through a tough time?

Be open and approachable

43% of employees in the UK don’t actually know whether they can take time off for mental health reasons.3 It’s not a stretch to imagine that many of these people suffer silently, and don’t feel they can even talk about their issues.

Change the way your organisation views mental health and let people know that time spent managing their own mental health is perfectly valid. Share stories of your own struggles, and be honest. If you ensure you have an open culture about these problems, some stress can be lifted.

Make reasonable adjustments

If an employee is suffering, making small adjustments could have a positive impact on their wellbeing. For example, excusing them from attending certain work functions or client events that may cause them to feel anxious; or, allowing them the option to work from home on certain days – small steps like these could make a real difference to someone struggling with their mental health.

Provide resources

A great way to provide help is with an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). An EAP offers staff and their immediate family access to a 24/7 helpline, face-to-face counselling, and legal, financial and medical information. They’re an essential lifeline, which can relieve stress, offer answers and improve mental wellbeing.

To find out more about Sovereign and our health and wellbeing solutions for businesses, click here.

1 Mental Health Foundation, 2 Economic and Social Research Council, 3 Employee Benefits

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