Stress in the workplace can lead to or exacerbate mental health issues. A study by Willis PMI Group found stress and mental ill health are among the top four causes of long-term absence, while the British Heart Foundation found that 40% of employees’ health has been affected by stress.
It’s a growing concern and one that needs to be tackled, not ignored. As a company owner or manager of a small firm, one way to offer help is through simple one-to-one meetings.
Open door policy
First and foremost, you must let your employees know you have an open door policy when it comes to these issues. They should be aware that if they’re ever feeling stressed or that any mental health problems are being made worse by work then they can talk to you.
The open door policy needs to be actual policy – not just something you mention in passing but part of your company’s written policy. Employees also need to be reminded of this, especially if you notice some are struggling.
Key to holding one-on-one meetings is that they’re between two people. What’s discussed in these meetings should go no further than between you and your employee. You could disguise these meetings as work catch ups so the employee feels none of their colleagues will find out or judge them.
It’s also not just a personal matter but also a professional one. The person seeking help or support should be able to do so without feeling their career will suffer. While stress and mental health problems can affect work, as their boss you should be supporting them through these difficult times, not telling them off because their work has suffered.
Remember, the Equality Act means that as a boss you need to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate your employees and you can’t discriminate against them when retaining or promoting staff.
While having an open door policy is fine, often people don’t want to cause problems or, for one reason or another, find it difficult to get the ball rolling on these discussions. By having regular meetings, you remove some of these barriers.
By organising a monthly or bi-monthly one-on-one meeting with your employees, you can keep an eye on their stress levels, see how they’re coping and come up with solutions before problems arise.
All employees should know that if they don’t feel comfortable talking with their boss, there is someone else they can talk to. Bringing in an outside counsellor for a few meetings a year is a great idea.
It means that the person they’re talking with is neutral, doesn’t come with preconceived ideas about who your employee is and doesn’t care about the work.
Alternatively, you can direct your employees to a number of charities that can help with any issues.
Posted by Nazia Ahmed – HR Director
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