Creating a healthy working environment

Good stress management is vital in the workplace,
says British mental health charity MIND.

Workers who frequently experience high levels of work-related stress might be at risk of developing mental health problems.

Anxiety disorders and depression, for example, are mental health problems that exist in the workplace.

MIND says the following regarding having feelings of stress:

“If you often experience feelings of stress, you might be at risk of developing a mental health problem, like depression or anxiety, and stress can also make existing problems worse.”

“Building resilience can help you to adapt to challenging circumstances.

What can employers do?

Creating a healthy workplace involves having policies in place that safeguard staff’s mental well-being.  Peoples stress can be complicated and often multi-level, so the solution has to be too.

 

Employers should look at mitigating stress by:

  • Helping individuals who show signs of stress

  • Teaching stress management techniques to all employees

  • Reducing the source of stress if possible

 

It is often useful for companies to assess the stress environment before implementing policies. 

 

This might involve surveying employees to find out what is causing stress. A diagnostic tool called the occupational stress indicator is particularly useful. In general, an occupational stress indicator will fall into one of a few relatively broad categories related to an employee's role at work, and his or her relationships with colleagues and management. Group discussions and checklists can also be helpful,

 

Companies should look at:

  • Physical working conditions

  • Work content and schedules

  • Working relationships

  • Communication and reporting systems

  • The roles and expectations of employees.

Companies should work on building an atmosphere in which stress is dealt with openly and supportively.  This will make employees more likely to express when they are feeling stressed so they can be given the support to deal with it.

 

Improving work conditions may involve improving communications, increasing autonomy, increasing flexibility, and improving the physical environment.​

Developing a mental health policy

All organisations should have a mental health policy as part of their overall health and safety policy. This should be developed with the following stages:

  • Audit: Examine existing levels of stress and identify potential causes. This will show where improvements are needed.

  • Creating the Policy: The policy should be created with representatives for all employees and should apply to all staff, it should include the negative impacts of poor mental health and the core goals of the policy, such as reducing stigmas and improving mental health

  • The health, safety and welfare policy

  • The human resource policy: to be able to deal with alcohol abuse, increased sickness, rehabilitation etc

  • Strategies for the prevention and management of stress

  • Training and stress management programmes

  • Description of staff responsibilities

  • Details about auditing: monitoring and evaluating the system, with estimated costs and time frames

  • Implementation: Put the policy into practice, making sure it is monitored and revised when necessary.

 

What is Workplace adjustment?

This means making a change or alteration for an individual that will assist them in doing their job. Reasonable adjustments are those which do not cost an excessive amount or cause major disruptions. Reasonable adjustments must be practical for the employer.

 

People legally defined as disabled are eligible for reasonable adjustments. It is good practice for employers to make reasonable adjustments for anyone suffering from stress or a mental health condition.

 

The 2010 Equality Act narrates that employers are legally obliged to ensure that disabled people have equal access to everything abled people have access to. It is their duty to provide reasonable adjustments to disabled people.

 

Proactively preventing stress is much easier than dealing with it once it has become a big issue. Making adjustments can reduce stress for all employees, not just those who are disabled. It can help make the workplace more accessible to people who suffer from mental health issues.

Many reasonable adjustments cost very little or nothing, so this is an economical way to improve productivity and staff well-being. Compared with the cost of high staff turnover, this is a very logical approach.

 

When to make adjustments

Employers will need employees to discuss their needs openly before they can make appropriate adjustments to the workplace. Employers should not try to guess at employee needs, but should instead encourage employees to be honest about them. Needs tend to be very unique to each individual.

 

Employers should discuss workplace adjustments with employees at every stage of their employment. This means that they should be discussed during:

  • Recruitment

  • Induction

  • Training and development

 

Examples of Workplace Adjustments

Here are ways in which employers can adjust a workplace to help somebody cope. They include:

  • Physical Environment

  • Increasing personal space

  • Providing a quiet break room

  • Reducing noise in the main work environment or providing private workspace

  • Offering reserved parking spots

  • Allowing employees to work from home or come into the office if the home environment is not safe for them or they need to be around others

  • Allowing desks to be placed close to doors or windows if required

Work Hours

  • Allowing someone to spread their annual leave entitlement throughout the year

  • Allowing use of paid or unpaid leave

  • Being flexible with start and finish times

  • Letting employees work from home

  • Allowing employees to take shorter, more regular breaks if needed

  • Temporary changing roles if reduced responsibility would help

Support

  • Offering a mentor in work

  • Offering mediation if there is a disagreement between colleagues

  • Helping employees prioritise work correctly

  • Letting individual focus their time on certain pieces of work and not overloading them with tasks

  • Increasing support

  • Allowing job sharing if needed

 

Ways to Support Workplace Adjustments

it is important that adjustments are made in ways which are healthy and supportive. Some of the best ways to support good workplace adjustments include:

  • Clearly communicating policies

  • Clearly stating the support and help available

  • Offering open conversations and dialect within the workplace

  • Offering adjustments to everyone

 

Talking is the best thing to do when you think someone is going through something difficult.  It isn’t always easy to know what to say, however, there are things you can do to make it a little easier.

8 Tips for Talking About Mental Health

Make a time: having time and space where there aren’t distractions will let the person know you value what they have to say and ensure they do not feel rushed

Listen carefully: even of you don’t agree, respect them enough to let them talk and to hear their perspective. Repeating their words back show you are listening.

Know when to turn to professionals: if you think the person is in danger or you are out of your depths, seek help from professional bodies.

Discuss well Being: talk about lifestyle and how good diet and healthy exercise can help with mental health issues. Ask if they find anything useful in terms of reducing stress.

Don’t second guess: let them talk, rather than jumping in with solutions or assessments of your own.

Keep the language neutral: encourage them to let you know how they feel rather than trying to guess or infer. Ask open ended questions and remain present with positive body language.

  • Ask if they want assistance in seeking professional help: you could offer to go to appointments with them or help them talk to others. Make sure they stay in control.

​​Don’t push them: they shouldn’t feel they have to tell you things they don’t want to tell you. Let the speaker set the pace.

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