The top practical tips on how to spot signs of mental health issues in the workplace

UK employees work the longest hours in the EU and live in an ‘always on’ culture – so, it goes without saying stress is at an all-time high. Supporting the mental health and well-being of employees is something employers simply cannot afford to ignore.  

Phil Austin

Our recent 360 Well-being survey revealed that eight in 10 Brits1 said their workplace was impacted by stressed-out co-workers. Worryingly, only 28 per cent2 of employers have a formal wellness programme in place to support employees. This may help explain why only a small percentage of people suffering from stress seek professional help.

All the triggers and impacts of stress can create a barrier to an employer’s ability to manage workplace stress and change. The good news is our research confirmed people are open to talking to their peers about stress – more than half (54 per cent)3 of those aware of stress amongst colleagues want to help.

How can you tell if your colleagues are suffering from stress? Our survey showed that moodiness (40 per cent)4 and fatigue (23 per cent)5 were two of the top indicators. Crying and poor work performance are also signals – given the poor work/life balance amongst many UK employees, these symptoms aren’t surprising and shouldn’t be ignored. 

It’s evident from our research that employers can do more to empower their staff to support each other. That’s why we’ve outlined some practical tips on the ABCDE’s of stress. These can help educate you on how to identify signs and symptoms in the workplace.

Spot the Signs 

  • Antisocial – social withdrawal, such as distancing themselves from colleagues, friends and family
  • Behaviour – erratic behaviour with extreme highs and lows or strong feelings of anger, often unexplained
  • Concentration – confused thinking and feelings of disorientation and missed deadlines
  • Drugs and alcohol abuse – where anxiety may signal substance or alcohol dependency
  • Emotional and physical impact – extreme sadness, worry or tearfulness, or unexplained aches and pains

How to Support Colleagues

  • Arrange the right time and place for a chat and ensure they feel comfortable
  • Be a friend – reassure and encourage and don’t show signs of surprise or judgment
  • Conversation – adopt active listening, use eye to eye contact, acknowledge what’s being said 
  • Don’t immediately suggest solutions, they may welcome advice but may just need to vent
  • Encourage them to get help if you’re worried and ensure you have information at hand such as helpline numbers and web links

These practical tips can help employers and employees spot the signs and encourage a more open culture in addressing mental health issues in the workplace. To make a positive change in the workplace, employers should provide a workplace wellness programme that supports an open dialogue.

Early intervention can prevent emotional wellbeing issues from getting worse, reduce the cost of treatment and help members return to work quickly.

The author is Phil Austin, CEO, Cigna Europe.

This article is provided by Cigna. 


1,2,3,4,5 Cigna 2019 360 Well-being survey

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