It’s just a couple of days now until I take my next step back towards being in work. That got me thinking about the impact of conditions like mine – depression and anxiety – on people seeking employment.
“1 in 6 British workers are affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress every year. This will be having a significant effect on your workplace and employees, but it can be improved.” – Time to Change
Some ideas to help.
So what can employers, and colleagues, do to help? Here are a few ideas from me:
- Take time to understand. Mental health conditions are not always obvious: I am a great example of someone who seems on the outside to be confident, even bullish, while inside I can be a seething ball of fear, anxiety, dread and anger. If you, as an employer, colleague or friend of someone suffering from mental ill health take just a few minutes to talk to them about how their condition(s) affect them and what you can do to help it will make a huge difference.
- Encourage, don’t criticise. Someone like me who suffers from anxiety will find meeting new people, going into new situations, even sometimes something as simple as making a phone call, a massively difficult thing to do. So don’t have a go at us, don’t think we’re being silly, encourage us and try to help us in any way you can. Sometimes, we might want someone to be their with us while we do something tough, sometimes we might want to be alone. Whichever it is, try to be encouraging and patient with us.
- Provide opportunities to talk. Even if it’s just popping your head around the office door at the end of the day to ask how I’m doing, you wouldn’t believe what a big difference it makes to know that someone cares and to have the chance to ask for help. But remember you have to be genuine: if I don’t look like I’m okay, if you notice something ‘wrong,’ don’t take “I’m fine” as an answer!
- Above all though have reasonable expectations, and provide some downtime. It matters for everyone, but especially people suffering from mental ill health, that we have a healthy work-life balance. This doesn’t just mean not working too many hours, or making sure that work and deadlines are manageable. It also means making sure that workers take enough breaks, and have chances to take those breaks away from their work. Just this simple thing goes a huge way to reducing the stress and pressure of work.
But those are just my own ideas. Here are a few links to information from some respected organisations:
- http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/time-to-change-your-workplace – information for employers and workers about improving mental health in the workplace
- http://www.mindfulemployer.net/ – a recognition scheme for employers who commit to reaching minimum standards in supporting mental health
- http://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/ – information from the charity MIND about mental health at work
- http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1900 – detailed guidance for employers on mental health and employment from ACAS
Be a champion with Time to Change.
If you’re really interested in making a difference, you might like to encourage your employer to sign the Time to Change pledge. Or if they already have, maybe you could even become an Employee Champion?