Guest Blog from Adrian Lewis, Director, Activ Absence – absence management software company.
Adrian Lewis, Director, Activ Abesnce says,
“With more focus on rising mental health issues in many UK companies, many employers are looking at ways to improve mental wellbeing but often employers don’t know where to start.”
“One cost effective solution is to use technology to track short and long-term absences and identify if someone is suffering from stress, anxiety or depression. If people are taking regular days off sick or more days off than usual, it could be a sign something more serious is going on. Absence management software highlights recurring patterns and provides insight for employers, so they can to talk to their staff gently and privately to discuss the real causes of sick days.”
“Encouraging open communication about mental health is also essential. Research tells us that people would rather be perceived as being lazy than having a mental health problem, so leaders must reassure people there are no stigmas around mental health.
“They should also ensure they promote any mental health support services available such as EAPs or counselling and use great events such as World Mental Health Day or International Mental Health Week (5th – 9th November) to communicate positive mental health messages.”
Here are Adrian’s tips for improving workplace mental health:
• Talk about stress and mental health to get rid of any stigmas. Engage with stressed employees before they reach the stage where they need to take long term absence.
• Line manager training is vital – they see employees every day. With the support of occupational health, they can be trained to spot the early signs of stress and depression.
• Take short term absences seriously. If employees are off sick, ensure they complete a return to work form about the absence. Follow this up with a gentle return to work interview.
• When conducting a return to work interview, interviewers need to see beyond the words. Communicate that mental health issues are as valid as physical illness and can be used as a reason for absence.
• During the return to work interview gently probe the given reason for absence. Do they seem tired or sad? Is there something that ‘feels’ not quite right? Occupational health can train line managers on the signs to look out for.
• Ask if the employee needs support and let them know a) that you care and b) remind them of any support provisions within the company benefits package or within occupational health.
• Once a mental health concern is identified, consider if flexible working arrangements or special adjustments would help. Could the employee work from home one day a week, or come to work later if, for example, their medication may impact their normal working hours?
“There is a lot more employers can do to recognise the signs of mental health. They can encourage a culture of openness and offer support where it’s needed. Understanding your staff and getting to the root causes of absenteeism is a good place to start and can make a big difference to the outcome for both the business and the employee.”