Being aware and able to spot the symptoms of employees and colleagues who could potentially be suffering from mental health issues is a valuable ability to have. Not only will it allow you to offer help and care to your staff early on, but it will also potentially change their life and make a positive impact, which will prevent possibly disciplining someone who needs support. It is important to remember that everyone’s experience with ill mental health is different, so symptoms can vary from person to person. However, there are some common signs to look out for regarding an employee’s wellbeing. Bear in mind that if you do spot one of these signs, it doesn’t always necessarily mean someone has a mental health issue. It could signal an underlying health problem or something else entirely. But it is always worth talking to any staff members who you are concerned about, to check if everything is OK or if they can be helped in any way. Read below to find out some of the most common symptoms of mental health problems at work and ensure that you are prepared to help any employees who may need it.
- Frequent headaches or stomach upsets
- Suffering from frequent minor illnesses
- Difficulty sleeping or constant tiredness
- Being run down
- Lack of care over appearance
- Sudden weight loss or gain
Emotional and behavioural
- Irritability, aggression or tearfulness
- Being withdrawn, not participating in conversations or social activities
- Increased arguments or conflict with others
- Erratic or socially unacceptable behaviour
- Loss of humour
- Indecision, inability to concentrate
- Increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and/or sedatives
- Being louder or more exuberant than usual
- Loss of confidence
- Difficulty remembering things
According to the recent Time to Change public health campaign, 67% of people with mental health problems do not tell their employer because they worry about the reaction. Then there is the difficulty managers face in trying not to pry too deeply into the individual’s personal and sensitive issues and cause offence. Below are 4 early warning signs of mental health problems at work and more importantly what to do about it.
Employees Are Taking a lot of Sick Days.
While many employees may not feel comfortable in stating stress, anxiety or depression as their reason for absence, taking regular shorter-term absences for an ongoing problem without the provision of a doctor’s note may be reflective of an underlying mental health issue.
Tip: Try monitoring employee absence patterns and conducting return to work interviews with employees who have taken significant time off work to help their readjustment back into the workplace.
Mood Swings, uncharacteristic and erratic behaviour.
Some people experience a change in mood and character when dealing with significant stress. From lashing out or bullying other staff to skipping lunch breaks and having a more withdrawn personality than usual.
Tip: Try holding informal and fun workshops every month educating and openly discussing mental health issues, and how they can impact on their personal and work life. Also, some employers proactively signpost support services available through Employee Assistance Programmes, such as counselling.
Low Employee Engagement and Poor Productivity.
People experiencing poor mental health may appear tired and lethargic, struggle to start or finish tasks and demonstrate an inability to make decisions.
Tip: Try finding solutions to lighten the workload and pressure on your employees. Can you share tasks more evenly among the team? Is banning out-of-work hours emails an option? In recent years, flexible working has been a popular alternative for many people - the NHS report found 37% of workers say the opportunity to work flexibly would help them.
High Staff Turnover
Most employees do not quit their jobs without some serious thought, and often the cause is less the nature of the job but more the poor quality of management, the negative workplace culture and the unhealthy impact it is having on their life. Employees who are experiencing mental health issues may resign because they feel that cannot get better while they are still at work.
Tip: Try to find out why people are leaving. Exit interviews, whereby interviewees are encouraged to be open and frank without any backlash, are a key method for many top managers for identifying underlying workplace issues.