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Helping small businesses open up about mental health

There's no doubt that mental health has moved up the business agenda in recent years as employers recognise the benefits of a happier, healthier workforce.

Poor mental health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee, per year, according to the Time to Change campaign.
Stress, anxiety and depression can lead to lost productivity and time off but research suggests businesses which prioritise employees' wellbeing can reap the rewards of increased staff loyalty, productivity and profitability.

However, while many small businesses have made great strides to tackle the issue, some will struggle to find the time, or the money, to invest in improving awareness about it.

So this Mental Health Awareness Week, why not encourage your staff to put an hour aside to complete a free online training programme developed by Mind, the mental health charity, working alongside the Federation of Small Businesses? 

The Mental Health for Small Workplaces e-learning toolkit has been designed with the needs of small firms in mind, to make it easier for their staff to learn about the subject. 
It includes online training modules and a guide to using them in the workplace, the FSB's guide to workplace mental health and Mind's guides to Wellness Action Plans. 

Research suggests small business owners work 13 hours a week more than the UK average - which can mean they neglect their own physical and mental health. 

And their employees can face unique pressures, taking on multiple roles and responsibilities and working irregular hours without the structure and policies in place in larger organisations. 

Although working as part of a close-knit team can make it easier to spot when someone is having difficulties, for many people, talking about their mental health remains taboo. 

According to Mind's research, one in four small business employees felt their manager would not be able to spot the signs of poor mental health. 

The toolkit points out some of the things to look for, with some suggestions about the best way to approach the issue and practical things you can do to improve things in your organisation.

Training modules can be accessed from your laptop and requires staff only to set up a username and password. They cover a range of topics, from the most common mental health problems and getting support, to useful mindfulness and relaxation techniques, advice on supporting colleagues and what to do if you're a line manager.

With three modules each taking about 20 minutes to complete - the whole course can be done in about an hour. It offers a practical, structured way to get small businesses and their employees thinking about the topic during Mental Health Awareness week.

Mind's own research suggests that only 23% of employees in small organisations feel comfortable disclosing mental health problems at work, so taking advantage of the free e-learning toolkit could help kickstart a wider conversation in the workplace about the issue.

"We hear so many stories of smaller organisations already doing great work in creating a strong culture where employees feel confident and empowered to talk about mental health," said FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry. 

"But it can be difficult for many to know where to start. This free e-learning for employees makes it easier to take the first step."