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Ask the expert
28 Feb 2016

We have an employee who has been a consistently high performer and, who has developed a mental health issue in the last year. We’d like to help this person remain at work – how can we help?

Mental health conditions can affect how people think, feel and behave. The important thing to note is that this condition may, or may not be long term. Plans you make and support you give should be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

The most useful considerations are:

• Flexible work patterns – such as changing start and finish times, reducing working hours and having flexible break times if yours are fixed. If the condition requires routine, work with the employee to set one and continue to work with them to keep to it

• Is their environment suitable? If they work in a noisy environment you could find a quiet place for them to work, or, depending on what they do, allow them to wear headphones to cut out the noise

• Create an action plan with them to help them manage their condition in the workplace remembering they are best placed to tell you what they are struggling with or what triggers they have experienced

• Discuss and agree how time off for any appointments they may have connected to their condition will be managed – you may need to talk to HR about this too to agree what can be paid, etc. Remember its an illness and so shouldn’t be treated differently to any other illness

• Reduce stress for the employee – if their role is stressful by nature you may want to explore options of changing their role if possible – again you may want to seek advice from HR before doing this. And of course you need to consider if others in the department are also feeling stressed and any tasks that are given to other people need to be thought through to ensure there won’t be an impact on those people too

The most important thing is that they feel supported. And watch for any signs of resentment, this could be from colleagues if the employee is seen to be ‘getting preferential treatment’ or from management who are reluctant to move on work patterns or who find it difficult to understand the employee’s condition.

You may also want to talk to HR about developing some training for staff generally to alleviate the stigma around mental health conditions, so that your employee and their colleagues have the tools to deal with this hidden (often referred to as an invisible illness) disability.

Fortunately, there is some good advice available now through MIND, SANE and time to change.

Jeanette Hibbert
answers your question
on the stress in the
workplace

We have an employee who has been a consistently high performer and, who has developed a mental health issue in the last year. We’d like to help this person remain at work – how can we help?

Mental health conditions can affect how people think, feel and behave. The important thing to note is that this condition may, or may not be long term. Plans you make and support you give should be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

The most useful considerations are:

• Flexible work patterns – such as changing start and finish times, reducing working hours and having flexible break times if yours are fixed. If the condition requires routine, work with the employee to set one and continue to work with them to keep to it

• Is their environment suitable? If they work in a noisy environment you could find a quiet place for them to work, or, depending on what they do, allow them to wear headphones to cut out the noise

• Create an action plan with them to help them manage their condition in the workplace remembering they are best placed to tell you what they are struggling with or what triggers they have experienced

• Discuss and agree how time off for any appointments they may have connected to their condition will be managed – you may need to talk to HR about this too to agree what can be paid, etc. Remember its an illness and so shouldn’t be treated differently to any other illness

• Reduce stress for the employee – if their role is stressful by nature you may want to explore options of changing their role if possible – again you may want to seek advice from HR before doing this. And of course you need to consider if others in the department are also feeling stressed and any tasks that are given to other people need to be thought through to ensure there won’t be an impact on those people too

The most important thing is that they feel supported. And watch for any signs of resentment, this could be from colleagues if the employee is seen to be ‘getting preferential treatment’ or from management who are reluctant to move on work patterns or who find it difficult to understand the employee’s condition.

You may also want to talk to HR about developing some training for staff generally to alleviate the stigma around mental health conditions, so that your employee and their colleagues have the tools to deal with this hidden (often referred to as an invisible illness) disability.

Fortunately, there is some good advice available now through MIND, SANE and time to change.

Jeanette Hibbert
answers your question
on the stress in the
workplace