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Expert opinion: Tips for encouraging good mental health in your business

Written by Peter Jones on .

Peter Jones of The HR DeptPeter Jones of The HR DeptIt's Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the focus is on stress.

One in four of the UK workforce now suffers from some form of mental health problem. And as business owners, that can include us.

So rather like in airline safety talks when you are told to fix the mask to your own face before helping others, it is important that you take care of your health and wellbeing.

Running a business can be stressful. If your moods are becoming more irritable, you have difficulty sleeping or you find yourself withdrawing, it is time to get help before you become ill.

Assuming you are keeping an eye on yourself, how can you help your staff? Providing an environment where the mental health and wellbeing of your staff is paramount is definitely more than providing a box of fruit each week.

There’s a lot of negative reaction to mental illness: from those frightened of it to those who are suffering from feelings of shame. They wrongly feel they are weak and should be able to keep the great British stiff upper lip firmly in place.

So a really positive approach you can take is to encourage open conversations. Let staff know you will support them during difficult times. Now, what other practical steps can you take? Here are five more tips for managing mental health in the workplace:

Five more tips for managing mental health in the workplace

  1. We know that stress can be positive as well as negative, but keep an eye on workloads to make sure they remain manageable.
  2. Make sure staff take holidays and have a sensible amount of free time.
  3. With smart phones, the temptation to check emails and social media can invade home life. So this should be discouraged.
  4. Look out for signs that people are struggling. These could range from sudden changes in performance to increased absence, or even panic attacks.
  5. Form links with local support organisations so you know where to access information. MIND produce lots of really helpful information booklets.

It’s essential you keep an open mind if a member of staff says they have been diagnosed with a mental illness and are now on medication. In this case you may need to look at what reasonable adjustments can be made.

Peter Jones runs the HR Dept in Swindon and Wiltshire www.hrdept.co.uk/offices/south-west/swindon