Are you struggling with poor mental health at work? Maybe it’s impacting upon your performance? Or perhaps you feel anxiety because you’ve been asked to go back to the office?
We’re living through the strangest of years, and a lot has changed – both in the workplace and in our social lives. But good mental health at work is essential at any time; regardless of the pandemic.
The importance of discussing mental health at work
You might be missing the social aspects of working together in the office. Or, perhaps, deadlines are piling up, and you can feel yourself slipping under. Either way, if you’re struggling, it’s time to discuss your mental health with your employer.
Challenging as it might seem, letting your boss know how your work is affecting you is an essential part of a healthy work relationship.
But it’s not easy.
Read through our list of helpful tips to help you discuss your mental health with your employer.
Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health
According to Business Insider, 85% of employees believe that they can’t discuss their mental health at work. Many people felt that they wouldn’t be taken seriously or believed that disclosure about their mental health status would jeopardise future job opportunities.
But Mind – the mental health charity – claim that almost half of all workers have experienced a mental health problem within their current role. And more than half of those, never tell anyone.
Some progress is made when high-profile individuals, such as Prince Harry, disclose their mental health problems – but, on the whole, the conversation about mental health is considered taboo.
So, this isn’t an easy thing to talk about. But, take some solace if you’re grappling with your mental health in the workplace because the stats stack up to confirm that you’re certainly not alone.
It’s the same as reporting a physical health problem
There seems to be a lot of resistance to discussing mental health with an employer. But there’s no reason why a mental health condition should be considered any different to a physical one.
This is because your performance at work can be significantly affected by poor mental health. So talking to your boss about your condition is key.
First and foremost, remember that a Mental Health Day is just as valid as time off work to recover from the ‘flu.
You need time to recuperate. And the longer you put it off, the longer it will take to get back on your feet.
Check out your company’s HR policies regarding sickness – if you have an intranet, the HR guidelines are usually published on there.
Your company might offer a free phone consultation programme like the SupportRoom Employee Assistance Programme.
Take advantage of any available help.
Helping makes good business sense
An employer who dismisses the importance of discussing mental health is ignoring the needs of almost half of their workforce. And that’s just not sustainable over the long run.
When you approach your boss about your mental health, explain how the problem is impacting your productivity. Avoid too much description of how you’re feeling; keep the conversation focused on work.
That way, you can emphasise that you consider your productivity important, with the implication that your job is significant to you.
Remind your boss that you want to do your best; you just need a bit of help.
Focusing on how your performance is suffering is a great way to approach the subject using language that managers are likely to respond to.
Remember, your manager will want to help because it makes good business sense.
How to discuss mental health with your boss
It’s up to you how much of the problem you reveal: there’s no obligation for full disclosure of your condition.
Remember: You’re in control of what information you share with your boss.
There’s no obligation to “name” your condition, but be cautious of blanket terms like “stress” as it is often misinterpreted.
Maybe your stress is causing poor sleep and feelings of anxiety – you could describe those rather than using a term that might be misunderstood.
If you’ve seen your doctor and they’ve signed you off work, just tell your employer that you’re ill and have been advised to take time off work.
But there’s no need to feel that your mental health disclosure will jaundice your relationship with your boss: discrimination about mental health is outlawed in the UK, and most responsible employers understand how important it is to look after your wellbeing.
Consider a mediator
Unfortunately, not everyone feels they can approach their immediate manager or boss. Perhaps you think they won’t understand or treat you fairly.
In this case, you should find someone to mediate your meeting: somebody from HR or your union, for example.
If you don’t want to take things down the official route, then ask a trusted colleague to sit in on the meeting and help you out.
Brief them before the meeting so that nothing comes as a surprise, and give them permission to speak on your behalf if that’s what you’d prefer.
Think about what help you need
Before you approach your employer about your mental health condition, it’s useful to be clear about what the problem is, and how you feel you’re most likely to overcome it.
Maybe you feel that you’ve been given too many responsibilities, or you need some flexibility in the way that you work? Perhaps you’re feeling pressure from too many unreasonable deadlines? It could be that you’re stuck in horrendous traffic before you get to work and it’s causing you anxiety that leaks into the rest of the day?
If you have a clear understanding of some of the things that are triggering your anxiety, it can be helpful to approach your boss with potential solutions rather than just the problem.
Choose your location and time
Picking the busiest moment of the day probably isn’t the right time to discuss your mental health with your employer.
You know the rhythm of your workday – if there’s a lull in the afternoon, then perhaps that’s an excellent time to plan your conversation.
Ask your boss for a meeting – it’s better than trying to talk to them while they’re busy. Choose a quiet place for your conversation.
If there isn’t a quiet spot in your office, then suggest you go for a walk. Walking minimises the “corporate” feel of your discussion and can free up the tone of the conversation.
Men don’t talk about their mental health: they should
As a rule, men feel less willing to discuss their mental health than their female counterparts. There’s, perhaps, a perception that men need to stay strong.
But, think about what “staying strong” really means.
We think that staying strong means just sucking it all up and dealing with it.
But, that’s never going to work.
Men, especially in their teens and early twenties, are THREE times more likely to die from suicide than women. But it’s not just younger men – those aged between 40 and 49 have a higher incidence of suicide.
Men are less likely to access support for their mental health: men account for just 36% of NHS referrals for talking therapies.
Nearly 75% of adults who go missing are (you’ve guessed it) men. 87% of the UK’s rough sleepers are men.
If you look at the stats, the importance of discussing mental health for men is indisputable.
Don’t feel shame about your mental health condition. Regardless of your gender, nobody should suffer alone.
SupportRoom is here to help
We believe that no-one should suffer in silence. But we understand that not everyone feels comfortable with face-to-face therapeutic discussions.
That’s why we developed SupportRoom with a range of ways to access our services.
For those who prefer face-to-face (or voice-to-voice), we have video chat or telephone calls where you can talk through your problems with a qualified therapist.
Perhaps you would prefer to maintain a level of anonymity. In that case, you might opt for unlimited text messaging so that you can explore and treat your mental health condition with greater discretion.
The most important thing is that you seek help because mental health conditions rarely improve without help of some kind. Sure, there’s a range of ways you can focus on self-care – and that can be enough.
For everyone else, there’s SupportRoom. We’re nearly ready to go live, so you can register your interest with us today and we’ll be in touch as soon as we’re ready to go.
SupportRoom is a dedicated, digital behavioural healthcare company, connected clients to a network of licensed therapists. Our innovative technology has been recognised in the 101 Best UK Startups founded in 2020.