With one in five workers likely to experience a mental health condition at any given time it’s crucial for businesses to support employees to stay in or return to work. Many workers will manage their conditions without requiring adjustments to their role. But in most cases small changes to the working environment will be enough to ensure people with a mental health condition are able to perform the requirements of the job. This will also allow people to keep in touch with the working world and gain the benefits of working, such as providing structure and purpose to day-to-day life.
In this New Statesman article, UK-based blogger Harriet Williamson spoke to a number of people about fulfilling professional obligations with a mental health condition. People reported that things considered mildly unpleasant by other colleagues (like staying late to meet deadlines or getting up early) can feel like insurmountable hurdles, particularly if they were taking certain medications. People also revealed the benefits of feeling supported in a workplace to have the conversation about their mental health and how employers can help people continue working productively.
For example Katie*, who has bi-polar, describes her episodes as “completely debilitating” but said she is grateful her boss has been very understanding.
“I am so lucky right now to have a boss who will give me manageable admin tasks rather than energetic sales, or will allow me different working hours. I part-manage a team who are willing to work around my episodes, relying on each other for help which means I don’t have to interact as much, and they generally learn a lot during these times,” Katie said.
There are a number of reasons why employers should try and accommodate the needs of employees with mental health conditions. For one thing, it’s the law. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) businesses are required to make reasonable adjustments to enable a person with a mental health condition to perform the key functions of the job.
It also makes financial sense for employers to make reasonable adjustments for people with mental health conditions that will result in a range of benefits, including reduction of sick leave, greater staff engagement and productivity, and reduced staff turnover, recruitment and costs.
*Name has been changed.