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Q&A with BLM and CBT Clinics

HR Wire sits down with a range of BLM partners to understand their approaches to employee care, as well as their approaches to tackling mental health within organisations. James Harvey, specialist defendant insurance lawyer, Julian Cox, employment law expert and Jacqui Beasley, head of partnerships at CBT Clinics, collectively sat down to explain strategies for addressing mental health issues within the workplace

What do you think is the most important thing a business can do to look after employees’ mental health?

Being proactive. By putting mental health and wellbeing support initiatives in place for employees, whether that’s drop-in sessions to discuss concerns or promoting wellbeing activities, companies are demonstrating that mental health is a priority that they will take seriously.

A proactive approach is also important in the case of employees who appear to be struggling. By recognising potential problems early on, you can access advice, whether clinical or legal, and devise an appropriate course of action to support that employee.

Do you think Covid-19 has forced employers to be more aware of issues surrounding mental health?

Definitely, Covid-19 has placed so many pressures on businesses and their teams, and it is having real repercussions, with issues like burn-out, working longer hours and feeling disconnected from colleagues increasingly common. For some companies, this might be impacting their relationships with employees or productivity levels.

If employers bury their head in the sand on these matters, it increases the risk of legal or reputational missteps. There will also be significant impact on the financial performance of the business by having people not working at optimum levels. People are the number one asset of a business, as well as risk.

They should be cared for, in the same way as you would expect items such as premises and equipment.

Can you explain what you mean by ‘proactive management’?

As we say, ‘proactive management’ is tackling issues relating to employee mental health head on, sensitively and appropriately. For example, if an employee is struggling to manage their workload, don’t chalk it up to slacking off.

Check in with them, and explore what pressures they might feel they are under, at home or at work. If appropriate, help them to access additional support, whether that’s planning how to lighten the workload, training to help with time management, or support in the form of talking therapies to discuss any deeper issues they feel are impacting their approach to work.

What inspired you to write this article?

To encourage businesses to take a more proactive approach to managing mental wellbeing in the workplace, and outline some of the common scenarios when it comes to dealing with mental health difficulties facing their employees.

BLM and CBT Clinics wanted to outline some of the key risks associated with failing to support employee mental health, and demonstrate the benefits of a collaborative approach that combines practical, clinical and legal support to help employers navigate this area.

We must remember there will be times where treatment is not successful. This is where support will be needed through the minefield of employment law. By approaching this in a collaborative way it will achieve the best outcome for the individual but just as importantly the business. There are reputational issues that make it very important to get this right.

Do you think mental health is taken seriously by employers?

Increasingly, yes. The discussions around mental health, at both a personal and professional level, have changed dramatically in just a few years. That’s not to say that businesses now feel completely equipped to support mental health issues at work, however.

Nonetheless, by recognising a better approach is needed, you can access the relevant professional advice and organisations who can help to put this support in place for your teams.

How can employers actively encourage employees to talk about mental health and engage in their wellbeing?

Being proactive and taking the first step to show your teams that mental health is a company priority will go a long way, and will help encourage employees to speak up if they feel they are struggling. For many people, telling others that they are struggling is one of the hardest things to do.

Working to remove some of the stigma around discussing mental health and accessing support is therefore key.

Furthermore, employers must make mental health support accessible to employees. Regularly updating them on any key activities or initiatives, whether that’s access to an EAP or talking therapies, providing Mental Health Awareness training or webinars or wellbeing days, is also just as important as talking the talk.

If employees either are not aware or don’t feel they have this support at work, how can we expect them to engage with it?

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