Positive Moves to Promote Better Mental Health Among Staff

10th June 2016

woman in officeStress-related illness is a major problem for all kinds of organisation, as large numbers of people have to take time off work with these conditions each year. HR departments of course need to have systems in place to manage staff who are suffering from stress and help them back into work after periods away. However, there is also an increasing focus on prevention, by creating a workplace and systems which help to prevent work-associated stress from building up to damaging levels in the first place.

Having an HR and payroll management system which includes absence recording software and time and attendance modules will make it easier to notice at an early stage if individuals are experiencing problems with stress and starting to take more time off work as a result.

Taking a Holistic Approach

Companies are starting to become more proactive in their approach to mental health and give it the same kind of attention as physical health. This involves putting structures in place which aim to create positive mind-set and taking a holistic approach, which takes account of individuals’ circumstances both in and outside the workplace.

This means aiming to ensure there is an openness to seeking help early on if you are suffering from stress. Too often, employees may feari the stigma of admitting there is a problem and try to battle on in silence, but the danger here is that their problems may become worse.

Good practice includes putting training programmes in place to help staff, including HR teams and management, to spot signs of stress. It is also very helpful if on-site counsellors or helplines are made available for staff members. A recent survey revealed that more than 50% of HR executives in the UK have been called on to provide counselling as a result of mental health and stress issues in the last 2 years, even though they do not necessarily have the right training.

Performance reviews offer an opportunity to look at anything which is troubling an employee including aspects of the job causing stress. It will be helpful here if you have software which makes it easy to record what is said during an appraisal. However, in the gaps between appraisals, it is important there are open lines of communication so people know where to go for help and advice. Less formal catch-up sessions between appraisals also mean that any problems can be raised at an early stage.

Flexible working arrangements are helpful for many staff who have demands on their time from outside, such as caring for children or elderly relatives. If employers are ready to consider a request for changed working hours, this can help to avoid the build-up of unnecessary stress  on individuals who are trying to do too much.

Techniques for Managing Stress

As well as training HR staff to spot signs of stress, an increasing number of employers are training staff in managing their own performance. This means they will be encouraged to think about factors such as how many breaks they need to perform effectively. ‘Resilience’ appears to be the buzzword of the moment, which involves teaching a package of skills which staff can call on to help them cope if they do come under pressure. It involves teaching staff how to control and deal with stress, as well as building confidence and flexible thinking.

Relaxation techniques are being taught in some workplaces, with Sophrology being one “life-balancing” technique which has been adopted in some companies. This approach includes elements of meditation as well as breathing and visualisation exercises. Another popular approach is Mindfulness. This is a technique drawing on Buddhist philosophies, which again uses a pattern of breathing and encourages people to focus their awareness on the current moment. It is being adopted in many workplaces to help people cope with stress and take time out to relax during the working day.

However, there are some concerns that Mindfulness is not helpful for everyone. Also, some experts fear there is a risk that relaxation exercises could be regarded as a “quick fix”, rather than making organisational changes which will take away some of the aspects of the job putting stress on staff.

Although relaxation techniques have a role to play, to combat stress effectively it is essential to ensure that jobs are well-designed and do not build up impossible pressures, through a culture of long hours and tough deadlines. Ensuring that staff know where they can get help and advice if a problem does arise can also help to build a positive culture.

If you are looking for an HR and payroll management system which can help to build a healthy workplace, IRIS FMP’s Teamspirit HR package includes appraisal software and absence and attendance modules, which are useful in helping to monitor staff performance and health.

Meanwhile, our innovative web-based HR management software, Amity, is especially helpful for people following flexible working patterns. Because Amity is a browser-based product and device independent, it can effectively be accessed at any time, anywhere, making it ideal for people who work part-time or in different locations.

For further information on building a healthy workplace culture, download our eBook, Implementing Employee Wellbeing Policies, free of charge. Click here to learn more about Amity, our fast and flexible HR cloud solutions which can be used on the move.