How to deal with mental health related absence
According to Mind, 1 in 6 employees are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress which can have a significant impact on employee wellbeing.
In addition, the mental healthy charity found that 41% of those who experienced their mental health worsening during the pandemic put it down to money worries. Consequently, the combined effect of covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis is having a negative impact on people’s mental health.
The reasons for absence
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that the UK lost a staggering 17 million working days to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the year 2021 to 2022. Furthermore, the Mental Health Foundation revealed12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions and interestingly women in full-time positions are nearly twice as likely to have a mental health problem as full-time employed men.
How absence affects your business
All this paints a pretty dim picture for the future. The impact of employee absences on businesses is massive. Not only does it affect business continuity and cause problems with staff cover, it can also affect a business’ ability to deliver its products or services at the expected standard.
It therefore makes sense for organisations of all sizes to be proactive in their approach to mental health issues. Through putting processes and support in place aimed at helping employees with mental health issues they may encounter it will hopefully reduce absenteeism.
So, what steps can you take to reduce absence and better support your employees’ mental health?
1. Effective communication
Communicate to your employees that your company’s attitude towards mental health issues is both open and progressive. This could go a long way to dissuading employees from ‘bottling up’ any issues they are facing.
2. Employee Assistance Programme
You may wish to consider some form of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This is where employees are given access to an outsourced provider of assistance that’s 100% confidential. This could be of particular benefit to those employees who, despite the company’s open stance, may still feel a sense of stigma over poor mental health.
3. Absence monitoring
Another way companies can seek to get ahead of the curve and reduce absence, is to actively monitor absence patterns. Not just in terms of the amount of time being taken, but the frequency. Patterns can also be identified such as whether an employee is always absent on a particular day of the week.
This can all be done manually, but there are also a number of software options that can provide alerts when a particular level of absence, or an absence pattern, is detected.
4. Return to work interviews
Finally, having a robust return to work interview process has been proven to greatly assist with absence management.
Do you have employees who just like to take the odd day off? Having to explain face-to-face why they were absent can improve their attendance.
For those with genuine difficulties, identifying the source of the problems, whether they be physical or mental, is really important. This information will put the employer in the best position to tailor any support needed. Plus, it will of course help keep workplace absence down to a minimum.