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Wellbeing mentor from Lincolnshire says it’s OK to talk about mental health

The FSB campaign, #FSBwellbeing ‘It’s OK to talk about mental health’ is about removing the stigma around talking about mental health in the workplace. It is also aimed at driving traffic towards the mental health guide on the FSB website.  

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FSB Member and Wellbeing Mentor Maureen O’Callaghan from Grantham in Lincolnshire has substantial experience of helping businesses with their wellbeing issues for the benefit of employers and of course, employees. 

Maureen said: “Talking about mental health and wellbeing makes a valuable contribution to creating healthy, happy, committed, and motivated employees feeling at their best, and doing their best, for your business.

"Looking after the wellbeing of employees has been shown to have a positive impact on the bottom line.  But it is not just about money or abiding by the law, it’s about doing what’s ethically and morally right. 

"So, what can you do, as a small business owner, with limited resources or expertise, to raise the profile of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?

"Sadly, there is still a stigma attached to mental health and wellbeing, and this often prevents people from talking about it.  I would encourage any small business owner to find opportunities to:
• Promote activities that encourage a healthy work-life balance and that can help employees cope with the pressures and demands they face.  
• Act as a positive role model, by adopting and talking about strategies that support their own mental wellbeing
• Provide mental health awareness training to both employees and managers so that they can recognise signs and symptoms of mental ill health in themselves. Increasing awareness of mental health makes it more likely that people who are suffering will feel able to come forward.
• Address any stigma that exists around mental illness, ensuring that people with mental health difficulties are treated fairly.
• Have mental health and wellbeing as an agenda item at management, team and one to one supervision meetings. Ensure that positive mental health and wellbeing is made explicit in the culture and values of the business
• Encourage employees with mental health difficulties to seek help from their GP or from a qualified therapist or counsellor and if somebody is returning to work after time off, talk to them about a phased return to work and ask what else you can do for them to make things easier

"What else can you do as an employer?
• Encourage employees to tell you if they are working on tasks beyond their capabilities or if they are dealing with impossible workloads, 
• Take the time to recognise good work, if you do employees will feel valued, it will give them a sense of achievement and make them feel more committed, motivated, and positive.
• Encourage employees to work together as a team and work on building healthy relationships where people support each other. This makes people feel like they aren’t alone and that they belong. This is important for everyone, but especially for people who are suffering from mental ill health. 
• Develop a workplace wellbeing plan. Think about how to improve the health of your employees holistically. Physical and mental health are not separate entities and one always impacts upon the other. Talk to your staff about how you can integrate wellbeing initiatives into the working day
• Where staff suffering from mental ill health need extra support, have a robust plan outlining how they will be supported, and what will happen if they do need time off. 
Additionally, please refer to the mental health Guide on the FSB website. It has been written with small businesses and their employees in mind.”

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.