Six PRCA-recommended tips to manage staff mental health

#FuturePRoof: watch PRs from M&C Saatchi PR and more talk on mental health

A #FuturePRoof report, launched with the PRCA, has shown that mental health in PR is either frequently ignored, or managed as a performance issue. The PRCA gives its six top tips for managers to handle such issues in the work place.

#FuturePRoof’s report, which included the participation of 120 self-selected PR practitioners that have experienced poor mental health in their career, shows that 57.6% would be uncomfortable, or very uncomfortable, to talk about their mental health with a line manager. Alternately, 37.7% said they would be comfortable.

Furthermore, many practitioners are unaware whether their sickness policy at work specifically addresses mental health. Some 53.3% said they were unaware of a policy, 14.2% reported that their workplace did have a policy and 32.5% reported that it did not.

#FuturePRoof also uncovered an ‘extreme’ case where mental illness was cited as grounds for dismissal in an employment contract; a move that breaches the Equality Act 2010 which prohibits such actions.

Paul Sutton, an independent consultant, said in the report: “My belief is that the communications industry has always put the job first and people second. There exists a very strong ‘yes culture’, where no ridiculous deadline is un-achievable and no unrealistic expectation is too much trouble. Personal lives and issues take a back seat. It’s a historic thing that’s not changed in all my time working in marketing communications.

“To compound that, senior communications people aren’t trained to recognise the signs of stress or to manage issues. Quite simply, we don’t know how to deal with personal stress and pressure, and that’s where the real problem lies.

“If management personnel knew a) how to recognise when someone is suffering from a mental health issue, and b) what to do about it, that would go a long, long way to solving the problem.”

Here are the PRCA’s six tips to manage mental health in the workplace:

1. The cost of mental health to public relations and the broader business community is well known. Make mental health and wellbeing a priority issue within your management team.

2. Company policies and procedures should cover sickness due to mental health. Provide clear signposting and training to all employees and managers on policies and procedures.

3. Where resources do not exist within an organisation, access external support such as the resources listed in this report. Small organisations should consider retaining specialised support.

4. Removing the stigma around the issue of mental health in the workplace will have the single biggest impact on positive outcomes. Create safe environments to encourage staff to talk about how they feel with each other and with managers.

5. Respect the boundaries between the personal and work lives of your employees that may otherwise have been eroded by mobile technology. Consider flexible working and home working as solutions to help employees manage their work lives and personal lives.

6. Examples of proactive employee support for mental health and wellbeing include: employee assistance programmes; subsidised exercise; mental health awareness training; and wellness action plans.

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