Recognising changes in an employee

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Being able to recognise when an employee may be suffering from stress or mental ill health will allow you to provide support as early on as possible. The signs may differ from one employee to another. It will also depend on the type of mental ill health they may be experiencing. In many cases, one sign alone may not be an indicator of any type of mental ill health, but it's still important to make sure that you are aware of it. Being ready to open a discussion when you notice changes in a person's mood and how they interact with their colleagues, or where you notice that they are having difficulty making decisions, dealing with their workload, or focusing on tasks.

Other signs to look out for include excessive tiredness or if their interest in their work is reduced, if there's an increased absence from work and changes relating to their appetite or increased levels of smoking or drinking. In many cases, work itself may be contributing to the problem, particularly where the employee works long hours has few or no breaks, or where there may be unrealistic expectations or deadlines. They may feel that they have no control over their work or have unmanageable workloads. If they don't have good managerial support or communication and have a poor relationship with any colleagues, then these problems, the manager should be identified and rectified as soon as possible.

Creating a healthy, open and non-discriminatory environment within the workplace has many benefits for both the employees and the employer. Employees should not be scared to talk to their managers or employer if they are stressed or experiencing mental ill health. But the truth is that in many cases, they are too scared to open the discussion because they may feel it affects their future prospects or that they may be judged or treated differently. In many cases, fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons for people not even telling their colleagues about their mental health problems. Considering that currently in the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems, it's vital that managers and employers strive to improve mental health and well-being in the workplace, and also understand how to identify and better understand mental health problems.

From a purely business point of view, high and prolonged levels of stress can often lead to mental ill health. If employees are afraid to open the discussion and the employer has no system in place to assess, manage, and monitor stress in the workplace, the most likely outcome is that the commitment, staff performance, attendance, and productivity is going to be reduced. Being an inclusive employer, ensuring that everyone within the organization is familiar with the workplace policies and introducing mental health awareness training to employees and management can all help to create a healthy and positive culture in the workplace.