Promoting workplace wellbeing by knowing when and how to help
Employers have a duty of care to their employees and should take any reasonable steps to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. It sounds simple in principle, but many managers find that in practice it's not as straightforward as it seems. This is particularly so when the causes of an employee's ill-health are complex and not wholly related to the workplace. Even if an employee's problems are affecting work performance, managers must tread very carefully in judging how and when to intervene into what could be a delicate private situation.
One telecoms industry expert has claimed that only one in ten stress-related absences was solely because of issues at work. In most instances, sickness absences may involve a combination of work and non-work issues, and studies have suggested that the two often feed each other, causing a spiralling crisis of work pressure and poor physical or mental health.
Still, when managers see a problem at work, whatever the root, they should strive to find ways to act with sensitivity and compassion. It's helpful for them to identify what parts of a problem they can influence and what they can't, and not feel overwhelmed by the latter. Shying away from a difficult situation can intensify the sense of isolation that an employee may be suffering, especially if there's a mental-health element to it.
Employers need to create supportive spaces so that employees have the confidence to talk about concerns. Some have set up employee assistance programmes designed to provide counselling and advice for a wide range of personal and work problems. Raising awareness of positive mental health and creating an open culture in which employees can ask for help without fear could make all the difference to workplace wellbeing.
Acas gives detailed advice and guidance on issues surrounding Health, work & wellbeing, including Advisory booklet - Promoting positive mental health at work [1Mb]. Acas also offers practical training courses on Work/life balance, Health, work and wellbeing (including mental health awareness training for employers), and Stress.
Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.