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How employers can offer mental health support before a crisis hits

4 Apr 2018 By Alex Bailey

Businesses should focus on their workers’ wellbeing all the time – not just when they need it, explains Alex Bailey

During the past year, there has been a huge increase in campaigning for greater awareness and acceptance of mental health issues, garnering national attention in the media and on social media, with members of the royal family even weighing in on the issue.

Some of this well-deserved attention has allowed employers to focus more specifically on helping and supporting their employees who experience a mental health crisis. There has been an increase in mental illness ‘first aid’ training schemes for key people within organisations, as well as platform opportunities for people to openly share their stories and pave the way for greater acceptance of mental health issues.

It’s also been a topic covered in great detail at industry events, with statistics and information on the cost of sickness days taken by employees because of mental health problems frequently appearing on conference programmes.

With growing attention on this issue, companies across all sectors have swiftly moved by putting a range of wellbeing strategies, plans and activities in place to help their employees address their mental health problems. But we know that most people will be affected by mental health issues at some point in their lives, so why are we waiting until they need it before providing help or support?

There is a more holistic approach that employers can take to help employees with their mental wellbeing in work and beyond, so that they are better prepared for those times. The PERMA model of positive wellbeing is the most relevant strategic framework for diagnosing and positively supporting people at work. It was developed and published in 2011 by psychologist and former president of the American Psychological Association Dr Martin Seligman. Bu using the model, we can provide helpful advice on how employers can support their staff from the outset, not just when they need it, including:

Being aware of our emotions. Knowing how these can affect our ability to create, solve problems and lower our heart rate in stressful situations is commonly practised as mindfulness, but it’s about much more than that. It’s about leaders knowing when to explicitly praise people so they feel proud, excite their teams towards a challenge and recognise when to pause and reset.

Capturing the moment and helping a colleague reflect on a moment of flow when they are at peak performance and notice what led to it so they can more easily create a pathway towards it in the future.

Helping people analyse their relationships and know not only which ones are healthy and how to nurture them, but also accept the ones that aren’t and let go.

Keeping the bigger picture in mind in a rapidly changing world of work ensures people constantly feel the purpose and drive towards it.

Noticing small achievements on a daily basis that move work forward, steadily and positively so people feel productive and accomplished means they leave work much happier and keener to return the next day.

By using the PERMA model as a framework, employers can make sure they are looking after their employees’ wellbeing as a whole, from day one.

Alex Bailey is a leader at Bailey & French

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