November 17, 2016
Workplaces that create positive environments for mental health are more productive as they can reduce employee absences due to stress and anxiety at work, but managers need to learn the skills needed to help reduce stress and poor mental health among staff. This is according to a new report based on research by Essex Business School commissioned by Acas. The report makes the human case that employers should prioritise mental health in the workplace to include careful management of those with mental health conditions, making reasonable adjustments to working practices where appropriate, and educating their whole organisation to challenge stigma. Leaders and line managers have a crucial role to play in reducing anxiety levels claims the report, and those trained in ‘people skills’ are best equipped to build trust and respect among their teams and individuals. This trust can help staff to disclose their mental health conditions so that appropriate support can be provided. Alongside the report Acas has published specific advice for managers on how to manage anxiety in the workplace.
“One in six workers in the UK have poor mental health and our new research reveals that bosses can create a positive environment through education and training for staff, especially line managers, said Acas Chair Brendan Barber.
“Businesses that promote a positive mental health environment at work have better staff morale, fewer absences and a low staff turnover. They also reap business benefits such as remaining productive and competitive.
The report includes six key recommendations that employers can adopt to have a more positive effect on employees’ mental health and create a better environment for all, including:
- Develop a positive environment for mental health at work. Businesses must recognise what causes them to become ‘anxious organisations’, such as poor people management skills among managers.
- Ensure that line managers are well trained around mental health. Line managers need the right level of support for the critical role that they play in the promotion of positive mental health at work. They need to be able to detect mental health problems early and, where appropriate, encourage employees to disclose their condition.
- Make sure everyone has a role to play in promoting positive mental health at work. We need a joined-up organisational response involving senior managers, line managers, people with mental health conditions, their co-workers, human resource managers, trade unions, and others. This should ensure that businesses have no gap between organisational policies on the management of mental health at work and practice.
- Use Acas advice on best practice at work. Employers should keep an open mind about the tools and advice they use to promote positive mental health. Acas will be working with its partners and interested organisations to produce more in-depth advice on the ‘mental health continuum’ so that organisations are able to gets to grips more easily with the full complexity of mental wellbeing.
- Challenge the stigma of mental health. Mental health organisations should be encouraged to support employers in increasing employee awareness about mental health to challenge the persistent stigma that surrounds mental health and to overcome the self-stigma that prevents many people from disclosing their condition.
- Empower staff to make them feel and work better. Organisations should explore how the empowerment of staff can help to promote positive mental health, helping to provide more control over working lives in the context of organisational uncertainty and change.
Acas has also published new advice for managers on how to manage anxiety in the workplace. It advises that managers should be confident and trained in the skills they need to support staff who may be experiencing anxiety at work. Informal and formal conversations will help establish a rapport with members of staff as addressing issues early and maintaining good communications is crucial.
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