Wattsnext have seen mental health issues within our client base triple in the past 12 months. Hardly a week goes by where we don’t have a client or someone in our network reach out for guidance in this area. Evermind conducted a survey of small business employees and it is a stark reminder that mental health in the workplace is an ever-increasing issue for business owners. The onus is on you as a leader and business owner to ensure it is front of mind and steps are being taken to mitigate legal implications and ensure a mentally healthy workforce.
The survey measured participants symptoms of depression and the findings are concerning:
The survey also measured the participants symptoms of anxiety and the findings are equally daunting:
The issue of mental health is increasing in small to medium businesses as a result of the emotional investment owners portray on a day to day basis and the subsequent expectations placed on employees. Employees see and feel the highs and lows a small to medium business goes through and at times pressure is placed on them to alleviate the numerous pressures. We at wattsnext, being a small business, appreciate that business is all about promotion, raising capital, not showing weakness and doing “whatever it takes”, however, this is a catalyst to the increasing issue of mental health in the workplace. Take a step back, reassess and afford your employees a voice.
Focus on capacity, not capability. Business owners tend to focus on building their capabilities to handle any and all problems, but for some, it can be more effective to improve mental capacity of employees instead. Richard Branson nails it by quoting “If you look after your employees, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”
The legal implications are two-fold and can be severe if this issue goes unnoticed and is pushed under the rug. Under work health and safety legislation mental health is part of an employer’s safety obligations. Mental ill health is classified as a disability and it is a requirement under the Anti-discrimination Act to provide a workplace adjustment if required. The issue has also seen an increase in Workers Compensation claims. Importantly an employer’s actions/steps taken to mitigate the risk of mental health and the consideration of mental health when making decisions is a key consideration in unfair dismissal proceedings.
Do and don’t – it’s at your discretion. See below!
Observe employees’ changes:
Step in early and demonstrate you care:
Offer referral, without requiring the person to seek help:
Make it a common conversation:
If an employee says they have an illness, listen and ask:
Presume anything about the sort of answer you will get:
Make judgments about the person’s response:
Proceed quickly to performance management:
Lead a workplace culture where careless comments are tolerated:
Push it under the rug!