Employee mental health is important but with the British stiff upper lips it can mean that mental health is a topic rarely discussed. With 12.5 million working days lost to stress, anxiety or depression in 2016/2017, spotting the telltale signs of poor employee mental health is business critical.
We look at five red flags that show all’s not well with your workforce and we review how you can take the initiative in opening up mental health discussion in your organisation.
Red Flag #1 – Silly Mistakes
We all make silly mistakes from time to time. But when you notice someone making more errors than usual, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.
Maybe your employee is turning over a problem in their mind making it difficult to concentrate. Or perhaps raised anxiety levels and adrenaline mean they’re easily distracted. Both behaviours can be a sign of an underlying problem.
Red Flag #2 – Short Tempers or Skittishness
When the usually calm and kind Jane snaps, shouts or loses her temper, it’s time for a chat.
You might also find that people who are suffering with mental health problems speed up and talk more or faster or jump between topics. All these behaviours are a result of a cortisol spike or a long-term increase in adrenaline.
While some people are naturally more likely to flare up or topic-hop than others, you need to be aware of times when this is out of the ordinary for a particular individual. Then be prepared to step in.
Red Flag #3 – Flat-lining
Keep your eye out for any staff who are unusually quiet or who fail to see the funny side of things. If something goes wrong and an individual gets a bit teary, becomes subdued or leaves the room, you might find that they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Other signs of mental ill health can include people avoiding social situations like team lunches or drinks after work.
Forcing people to join in or expecting someone to resolve this situation alone is a definite no-no. Instead, take them to one side and check in to make sure they’re ok.
Red Flag #4 – Alcohol on the Breath
Everyone has the odd mid-week evening when they really need a drink. But if one of your team is regularly coming into work with alcohol on their breath, you need to address the situation.
This isn’t just for the wellbeing of the individual concerned but for the safety of those around them, particularly in roles where staff drive or operate machinery. Immediate action is called for in this case to prevent an accident.
Red Flag #5 – Appearance
Appearance might only be skin deep but it can tell us a lot about an individual’s state of mind. When we’re under pressure, or feeling exhausted due to depression, self-care can be one of the first things to go.
Someone who’s looking a bit disheveled, seems to showering less or is failing to take care of their appearance might be struggling to maintain their mental health.
Another telltale sign can be an individual’s weight. People with anxiety often feel like they don’t want to eat due to the high levels of adrenaline in their system. Others find that depression and anxiety make them turn to food for comfort.
Either way, weight can be a good indicator that someone is struggling. Of course, referencing someone’s appearance is not a good jumping off point for a supportive conversation. So, what should you do to help your staff?
Take the Employee Mental Health Well-Being Initiative
Talking about mental health is the first step to addressing it. As a leader, it can be encouraging to talk about the support you find helpful and the tactics you use to keep on top of stress and anxiety.
One way to to help is to ask your team for a list of early signs of mental distress and the tactics that aid them. They can share these with you so you know what to look out for and the best way to intervene.
Beyond this, developing a wellness plan for your business will formalise your response as an organisation and also helps employees know that you care about their well-being.
Keeping an eye on your employee mental health is good for your staff and your business. By following the advice in this article, you’ll be ready to spot issues and respond appropriately when your employees need you most.