Help others stay at work
Supporting someone with a mental health condition to stay at or return to work, has a number of benefits for both the employee and the business.
Work can play a vital role in a person's recovery, by helping to;
• improve their quality of life and wellbeing
• give structure and routine to day-to-day life
• contribute to a sense of meaning and purpose
• promote opportunities for social inclusion and support.
Benefits for the workplace include retaining valuable skills and experience, and avoiding the costs of hiring and training new employees. Above all you’ll help to create an open and positive workplace, where people feel valued and supported.
Barriers to remaining at or returning to work
So you can best support an employee, it is important that you have an understanding of some of the barriers that may be impacting on them staying at or returning to work. Doing this will help both the employee and the workplace as a whole.
When someone is unwell, they can feel overwhelmed and more vulnerable than usual, making staying at or returning to work difficult.
Barriers may include:
- fear that colleagues may find out about the diagnosis and have negative reactions
- loss of connection with work and co-workers
- lack of support from employers and managers - this can be perceived or actual
- uncertainty about the level or type of support available
- stigma associated with mental health conditions
- concerns that work-related contributors to stress, anxiety and depression have not been addressed.
Having the support of a manager or supervisor is the most crucial factor when it comes to remaining or returning to work with a mental health condition.
Some practical strategies to address barriers may include:
- ensure the employee is aware that what they disclose to you will remain private and confidential, and discuss with them what they would like you to tell their colleagues, if anything.
- if the information needs to be shared with a third party, such as HR or another manager, explain this to your employee and discuss exactly what information will be passed on.
- regularly touch base with the employee if they are away, and check if they are happy for their colleagues to touch base with them if they want to
- discuss support options with the employee. This may include access to services such as an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP), the development of a plan to help them stay at or return to work, or booking in more regular meetings so you can check in with them more often.
- speak openly about mental health in the workplace and encourage others to do the same.
- have an open discussion with them to see if there are any work related contributions to their mental health condition. If so, discuss with them how you could address those concerns.
Developing a plan
A good plan to help someone stay at or return to work will be jointly developed with the employee and provide clarity on roles, responsibilities, and strategies to support the employee's recovery.
Every plan will be unique, but below are some useful questions to ask under three key steps.
Making reasonable adjustments
Reasonable adjustments are changes to a job role or workplace that help someone with a mental health condition to keep working, or return to the workplace if they've taken time off.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, employers must make reasonable adjustments to support people with a disability (including a mental health condition) provided the person is able to fulfil the core requirements of the job.
Reasonable adjustments apply at every stage of employment:
• recruitment, selection and appointment
• existing work role
• career development
• promotion and transfers.
Adjustments can be temporary or permanent, and are usually free or inexpensive. It’s important for the employee to identify their own stressors and potential difficulties, then work through solutions together.
It is important to avoid making assumptions. Some common ideas include: