Managing employees wellbeing

Some employees have been able to manage the stress of the past 18 months better than others and that isn’t always obvious to employers. Unless someone is booked off work due to physical or mental illness or they have spoken directly to a senior manager, the company could easily assume that everything is ok. Should an employer investigate further and how much should they be expected to know about an employees’ state of mind and wellbeing?

A case of disability discrimination?

In the normal course of business, manager’s primary concern may be operational efficiency. If a particular employee’s performance is waning, or they’re constantly behind deadlines or off work and no explanation is given, the manager may institute disciplinary measures that could result in dismissal. If the company then finds itself served with a case of disability discrimination, can it be found guilty if they did not know that there was a disability involved?

This is an interesting question because the company may not have actual knowledge of a mental impairment in the form of a doctor’s diagnosis, but the law also looks at implied knowledge or constructed knowledge. If the only feedback from an employee was that they were stressed, should the manager have dug a little deeper into the situation? It’s well known that stress alone is not considered an impairment, however, prolonged or acute stress can lead to anxiety or depression which may be considered an impairment under specific conditions. If an employee is constantly stressed then there is a risk that it could progress to a more serious condition where the person cannot fulfill their work responsibilities.

In this case it is best for the employer to investigate further. Specifically to determine is the stress is related to a work situation and if there is anything they can do to assist the employee and help manage the situation better. If an employee says that they can’t sleep and that’s the reason they’re not coming into work it could be implied that the stressful situation is escalating. Really what is needed is for managers to have a greater awareness of mental health issues. What common symptoms are and what are the indicators that a situation is escalating.

Has remote work masked the real situation?

While some people found working from home stressful or lonely, for others it may have been just what they needed to be able to cope with the anxiety of lockdown and other Covid-19 related stress factors. Working from home didn’t require people to commute to work. They may not even have had to get fully dressed to attend zoom meetings. In extreme cases they may even have just worked from their bed and in a way that was helpful. For people feeling overwhelmed by circumstances, having to get up, get dressed and drive in to work and face an office full of people may have been more than they could cope with.  But just walking to the next room and sitting at their desk – that felt doable. So instead of being absent from work, they could actually do some work and feel productive. The problem is that long term, if someone is suffering from anxiety or depression, at some point productivity will take a dive.

It’s a difficult situation for employers and employees alike. While awareness on mental issues is increasing, some people may still feel that it is a stigma they don’t want attached to their name so they’d rather just not say anything until the situation has gotten so bad that it’s impossible to hide. The best solution for companies is to train managers on aspects of mental health and have forums or mechanisms whereby employees can reach out and ask for help if they feel that they’re not coping. When employees are happy and healthy, they will be productive, so it’s in a company’s interests to offer the support and training that employees and managers need.

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We recruit throughout the East Midlands covering Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutland and the surrounding areas, especially Market Harborough, Lutterworth, Leicester, Corby and Kettering. We help people find their perfect job and match suitable job seekers with businesses looking to hire the best candidates across our five specialisms – SalesMarketingAccountancy & FinanceHR and Office