Did you know 1 in 10 SMEs have occupational health support in comparison to the 8 in 10 large organisations? With various bottlenecks and roadblocks for small businesses to maintain a mentally healthy workplace, such as budget and lack of resources, there are still ways you can support your employees’ mental health as a small business owner.
Almost a quarter of employees working within an SME do not feel comfortable talking about their mental health. Whilst another quarter believe their manager wouldn’t be able to support their mental health if they wanted to talk about it.
Whilst large companies may have access to greater initiatives, smaller businesses often have close-knit communities that thrive on strong bonds amongst colleagues which may be a great starting point for the welfare of your employees.
What Can I Do As A Small Business?
You don’t need to be an expert or feel obliged to provide answers for someone who is suffering from a mental health illness. However, the deeper your knowledge and understanding, your ability in being able to support a colleague who needs it, increases.
Start by exploring and analysing internal data. Do you have statistics surrounding mental health sick days within your workforce? Look to company-specific statistics and work with that data to channel your focus when implementing your wellbeing strategy.
Employees are not expecting their manager or senior leaders to diagnose them. But it is important you begin to normalise the conversation in the working environment. To support your employees’ mental health as a small business owner raise awareness with posters around the office, adding banners to senior leader’s email signatures, or by printing small messages on payslips.
Lead By Example
Senior management plays an integral role in driving your business forward and can do the same in leading a mentally healthy workplace, and fundamentally contributes to a business’s success. In smaller businesses, employees tend to have closer relationships with directors and CEOs, therefore a leader’s approach is crucial.
Supportive and intelligent managers who take the lead help to destigmatise mental health conversations and promote a happy workplace.
Listen To Your Employees’ Needs
When someone is going through a hard time mentally, they don’t expect others around them to solve their problems for them or to be ‘fixed’, they just want to be heard. As an employer, listening is the most vital thing you can do, particularly if resources and budgets are tight. Being an active listener is a key way to support your employees’ mental health as a small business owner.
Don’t force anyone to talk about anything they don’t feel comfortable talking about. Instead, let them know they have the support to be able to talk when they are ready.
You can implement further listening tools by conducting internal surveys, or by having open conversations regularly within the office. In your findings, you might discover employees benefit from different approaches. For example, where physical exercise may work to channel anxiety for someone, journaling might be a deeper approach for someone with depression. Once you establish what your employees need you’ll be able to make relevant changes and implement critical initiatives.
Support Each Other
Supporting a colleague can be done in a number of ways. Begin by asking how you can help, the individual may or may not want to talk about it, however, an open-door policy lets your employees know they don’t need to avoid the issue with you.
Ask specific questions to get to the root of their concerns. Often when somebody is struggling mentally they find it challenging to openly say what they need. Ask something that is reasonable and you are able to offer, such as, ‘can I help with the project you’re currently working on?’
Based on your findings surrounding your employees’ needs, speak with your team and find out if there is anyone who is passionate about mental health and would like to become a ‘Wellbeing Champion’ within the business. The idea is for them to be the go-to between employees and management in finding mental health solutions that benefit the business and employees.
Be Open-Minded and Discreet
Mental health is a very personal journey and its important outsiders allow the individual to work their way through the process at their own pace. As an employer supporting someone with a mental health issue, be patient and trust they are working to the best of their current potential.
Don’t judge them, or try to assume how the person is feeling. Open-ended questions give them the opportunity to open up and tell you themselves what they are experiencing if they wish.
Small workplaces with close-knit networks can sometimes be a breeding ground for gossip with very little remaining private. Therefore, it is important employers of small businesses respect the privacy of their employees.
Take Part in Group Activities
Group activities are a fantastic way to bond with teammates and get to know one another outside of the workplace in a relaxed setting. Perhaps you can go bowling together, or if your team is active and likes the outdoors you could take part in a local bike ride.
Alternatively, give back to the community by taking part in local activities. Take a look at what is happening in your area, not only is this rewarding for you and your team, it promotes positivity and is a great opportunity to get everyone involved.
Flexible workplaces are fast becoming the future of the working world, with remote working taking the lead. Many of us have understood we can overcome the implications of working from home by making use of technology. Not only has this improved our productivity it has also reduced anxiety and stress for many.
It is equally important to promote time off where needed. PTO is an essential part of anyone’s career package and should be allowed throughout the entire year, whether for sick leave, mental health days or to be taken as annual leave.
Support Mental Health Days
Throughout the calendar year, mental health charities and NGOs promote mental wellbeing days, such as Mental Health Awareness Week or National Stress Week, however, integrate your own mental health days and events within your business.
You can dedicate a morning per week where employees are encouraged to write down things they are grateful for, or what they appreciate about their colleagues. Bringing our awareness to the small things in life and appreciating what we have can work miracles on our wellbeing.
Zen Your Working Environment
Many businesses have recently favoured working from home however a physical office space is still important. The environment you create for your staff speaks volumes for the way you wish to run your business. A tidy workplace encourages a clear mind whilst adding softer touches such as plants, paintings and personal items promote a happier and healthier place to work
What To Do When Someone is Signed off Work
Being signed off for a mental health issue poses a lot of questions for other employees, particularly surrounding their return to work. Whilst they are off check in regularly, it’s important they still feel included. However, don’t disturb them about work issues or business matters, they can catch up on this when they return.
Returning To Work
When they do return to work, be proactive and get involved as soon as possible. Meet with them before entering the office so you can walk in together and be sure to schedule a catch-up meeting to see how they are doing and for you brief them on what’s been going on during their absence.
Once they return it is important catch-up meetings are scheduled and maintained regularly. Not only will they feel more comfortable upon returning but you’ll be able to see your support is having a positive outcome.
Might We Be Able To Help Your Business?
The Everymind app is centered around your company and the individuals’ needs to normalise conversations around mental health in the workplace. We’re currently offering 6 months free for all companies, with no obligation to sign.