Responding to employees suffering from anxiety and depression
For many companies navigating through issues of mental health in the workplace is new territory. Managers may not be equipped with the knowledge of how to support or respond to employees and this is can be risky from several perspectives. If employees feel victimized and unsupported it could make their situation worse, even make them feel desperate enough to cause themselves harm. From another angle it could result in legal action being taken against the company for disability discrimination.
Neither of these are situations that companies would like to find themselves in which means that it’s necessary to equip mangers and train staff on how to respond to employees that have anxiety and depression. We take a look at the steps to take once the company has been made aware of circumstances that adversely affect an employee.
Step 1 – Communicate
It’s really important to start the process by having a conversation with the affected employee/s. That’s the best way to gain a better understanding of their situation and how they’re feeling on a day to day basis. If there’s been an issue of intermittent absence or prolonged absence then it is important to understand the reasons for this.
Step 2 – Monitor
Whether it’s decided that immediate action needs to be taken, or that the person is in a stable state, the manager should monitor the situation for a few weeks to see how the person is coping in a normal work environment. Emotional states can fluctuate and people have different triggers that cause stress so there won’t be a blanket solution that’ll work for everyone. This is why it’s important to continually keep an eye on the situation, even after the critical time period has elapsed
Step 3 – Provide Resources and Support
If the situation is not deemed to be severe, still make the effort to share additional resources that will support their efforts to cope and check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing. If there is concern that the situation is serious then the advisement is to recommend they see an occupational health expert. This needs to come from a place of concern not condemnation and it’s best to explain that while you’re not a medical expert, you do feel that more medical information needs to be obtained. This is for their benefit, to help them, but also to ensure that the working environment supports them so that they can continue to work.
Step 4 – Follow up
After the informal discussion follow up with the employee via email summarizing the key points that were discussed and the next steps. This serves as a record as to what actions the company is taking to help the employee. It’s also a reminder to the employee that they need to take action and make the effort to get help.
Sometimes an employee will deny a mental health issue, even after a discussion and notable absenteeism or lower productivity. If there is at all a suspicion, then the company needs to act. Even if it is to just to have an informal conversation and then follow that up with an email so that the case is on record. Then at a later stage an issue does arise the company can’t be accused of knowing about a situation and not acting on it.
Ultimately it’s about acting in the best interests of employee and the company and making sure everything is being done to create a healthy working environment where people can be productive.
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