17th May 2024

Mental Health in the Workplace

EST is a multi-service professional practice offering HR Consultancy, Accountancy and Tax Advice, Wealth Management and Commercial Finance.

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close for another year, Megan Wong, HR Adviser at EST focuses on achieving good mental health in the workplace.  The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’ however mental health is never a ‘one week’ priority and employers need to aim to tackle stigma and enable people to understand and prioritise mental health all year round.

What is causing mental health issues in the workplace?

Depression, anxiety are the most common mental health issues we see in the workplace, along with stress.  While stress may not constitute a mental health diagnosis, it can cause mental health problems…or make existing problems worse.

Anxiety is an important human emotion but, in some circumstances, it can get out of hand and become a mental health problem. A lot of different things can contribute to feelings of anxiety, including exams, relationships, a new job, a date, or a big life change. It is also an emotion people frequently experience around money and not being able to meet life’s basic needs.

Add to this deadlines, endless overtime hours, administration, and targets to hit, then it is no wonder why staff mental health issues are becoming more prominent in the workplace. It is a known fact that a majority of the UK population spend more hours in the workplace then they do at their own home so ensuring people have the right support systems, training, and voice to request support, will only benefit the business and staff.

Why should I care about my staff’s mental health?

It is arguable that prioritising the mental wellbeing of employees is the key to ensuring a positive workplace culture. While we know that employers must take mental health as seriously as they would take a physical illness, it is arguable that some employers are still not doing all they can to ensure measures are in place to support their staff.

Not only this, but there is also a legal duty to ensure the safety of our staff in the workplace.  Employers have a duty of care to their staff, and so doing all they reasonably can to support employees’ wellbeing, as well as physical health, is essential.

But what if my staff are just ‘lazy’?…

An assumption like this just simply will not do.

If we are being honest, the likelihood of employees coming forward and declaring a mental health issue may be unlikely. Even with the topic of mental health becoming less of a taboo, we as a society are still not there with making the topic a normality.

Signs of mental health issues are not always easy to spot, however, there are some that ACAS do suggest:

  • Appearing tired, anxious, or withdrawn.

  • Increase in sickness absence or being late to work.

  • Changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks.

  • Being less interested in tasks they previously enjoyed.

  • Changes in usual behaviour, mood or how the person behaves with the people they work with.

And sometimes, visible signs are not possible, with homeworking becoming a more desired way of working, it means we are not able to simply look across the desk anymore. Therefore, it is all that much more important to ensure we are asking our home workers how they are doing more than ever before.

So, what can I do?

Talking about mental health in the workplace is still a taboo, and so removing the stigma around these discussions is crucial. No, we are not suggesting you shout about mental health, however, implementing steps to take the awkwardness of these conversations and make them a normality is a good start. Sometimes, all it takes, is an over the desk conversation to normalise topics that once never happened.

Also, if reasonable, see what adjustments can be made to support your staff in the workplace. These changes do not have to be big, and can be small, some examples we would suggest:

  • Allowing more rest breaks.

  • Amending working hours and patterns.

  • Changing the layout of their desk area to avoid sensory overload.

  • Adapting the way policies are applied.

  • Discussing flexible working options.

And a step further, lead by example! Show how you are looking after your own mental health, set boundaries between the workplace and home, shut your laptop at the end of the working day, take a day off, go on a walk during the working day, it is surprising how much impact our behaviours as employers have on those who work for us.

How can our HR team help?

At EST we are passionate at trying to support workplaces with their staff’s mental wellbeing and removing the negativity around the topic.

EST offer an Employee Wellbeing course helping to unlock the secrets to a happier, healthier, and more productive workplace. We provide you with the knowledge and tools to create a Wellbeing Action Plan and Policy that address the root of these challenges.

EST also offer a range of management training courses which could support your teams in their pursuit of leadership excellence:

  • Wellbeing in the Workplace.
  • Managing Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion.
  • Managing Remote Teams.
  • Absence Management.

Please contact our HR Team if you would like more information about this or any other support in respect of HR or organisational and management development at 02921 303888 or