Mental health: the New Year resolutions employers need to make.

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After a very busy Christmas period, people can come back to the office feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. But unfortunately, people can also come back with a serious case of the January blues, writes Karen Jackson, director at Didlaw.

In fact, the third Monday of January is popularly referred to as ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year. The weather continues to be cold and wet, people are broke and an Easter break seems a long way away. Family and financial pressures felt over the Christmas period can also come to a head in January – it is the most popular month to file for divorce.

Of course, for employees already suffering from a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety, this period can be even harder and feelings of inadequacy and isolation can be compounded.

Karen Jackson, director at didlaw.

Many employers may well feel they can brush this sort of employee issue under the rug or just write it off as seasonal. But employers must be alive to how their employees are feeling  – mental health is the biggest reason in the UK for employees taking sick leave, so stress at home, for example, which is not an employer’s responsibility, will become so when it manifests at work.

This time of year is the perfect period to implement New Year’s Resolutions to tackle mental health in the office. These resolutions can benefit staff but also the business and the bottom line. None of the initiatives are costly, most are common sense and yet many businesses don’t bother. These resolutions will also help ensure staff well-being is more positive and healthy, there is less sick leave taken and there is no danger of a discrimination claim coming the way of the employer.

Support your employees

Sometimes all that is needed is a little extra attention and some TLC. Make sure staff aren’t faced with an overwhelming to-do list for the New Year and ensure employees are supported and encouraged to speak up if they feel they aren’t coping. By ignoring an employee who isn’t coping, you could be creating a legal liability. Ignoring the problem and simply not giving that individual certain high-pressure projects to work on could also mean you are inadvertently discriminating against them.

Don’t ignore reports that a staff member is upset or crying in the toilets, for example. If a person is visibly stressed (tears, temper, shortness of attitude, general grumpiness) ask them what is the matter. People coming in early or leaving late is also a red flag that someone is not coping. If you do nothing you may create a legal liability.

Take a break

Encourage staff to turn off their phone. Taking a digital detox overnight, at weekends and on holidays is important. They will come to work more refreshed, more focused and less stressed.

Make people feel valued

Remember to say thanks – most Type A personalities who are at risk of breakdown respond incredibly positively to such support. It can be the difference between becoming ill and staying well. Make them feel valued. It costs nothing and engenders huge engagement.

Don’t discount mindfulness.

Studies demonstrate reductions of 40%-59% in stress, anxiety and depression with a mindfulness course, such as those online. The success rate for mild to moderate depression in using mindfulness is a staggering 70%.

Mental health in the workplace is an important issue and one which shouldn’t be ignored by employers – implementing these simple New Year’s Resolutions can help ensure a healthier mental well-being in the office.

 

 

 

Karen Jacksonhttp://didlaw.com/
Karen Jackson is a senior employment solicitor. She founded law firm Didlaw in 2008 and specialises in disability-related issues in the workplace.

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