Spot the Warning Signs: What to look out for when it comes to mental health of the team

Mental health in the context of workplace is increasingly becoming a focus point within organisations across industries. More and more, employers are realising that cultivating an environment that supports positive mental health is essential as it allows individuals to cope with challenges and deal with setbacks in their lives both at home and at work in a healthy way. It supports employees to flourish in their roles, manage stress and boost resilience. Positive mental health allows employees to reach their highest potential.

As an employer, decision-maker, leader, or manager of people and culture in the workplace, we all have the responsibility to care for our employees and prioritize workplace wellbeing. 

Empathy, supportive communication, active listening and timely responses to mental health needs go a long way towards addressing emerging concerns and helping increase employees’ overall productivity as well. In order to intervene efficiently, we must also be able to identify those signs that may show us that the employees may be struggling. Timely intervention can prevent burnout, depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns which may lead to increased attrition, dysfunction in the team, and sub-optimal organisational outcomes. 

It might be challenging to spot the signs of someone experiencing mental health concerns within the team, but given the stakes, it becomes essential to equip ourselves with tools and a framework to be able to spot the red flags, signs that could tell us when and how to intervene.

We have listed some of the more typical signs that may indicate that someone might be struggling with mental health issues.

Signs Your Employee is Struggling with Mental Health Concerns

  1. Mood swings and erratic behavior: Every employee has a different coping mechanism and ways of responding to stress. One’s moods and behaviours are generally impacted while dealing with stress. When stress or a challenging situation persists for a prolonged amount of time, or when one’s ability to access support or respond effectively is negatively impacted, it may result in frustration, anger, and even guilt, shame, and depression. The visible signs of this may look like sudden changes in personality, lashing out, bullying other employees, an increase in conflict, abrupt and sudden anger, missing meals, or being more distant and withdrawn than usual. If you see your employee constantly involved in conflicts with others, act aggressively, get upset, quickly, be withdrawn or any other change in behaviour can be red flags indicating a need for mental health intervention or support.
  1. Declining performance: One of the strongest indicators that your employee is experiencing mental health concerns is a sudden and visible impact to their performance. The employee’s mental health challenges may lead to procrastination, delayed deliverables, a decline in the quality of the work, increase in mistakes, etc. This may also lead to an inability to complete designated duties and even to achieve their own goals. 
  1. Increasing absences: Sudden and prolonged instances of tardiness and absenteeism can be indicators that the employees might be struggling with their mental health. Employees that are frequently overwhelmed find it extremely difficult to perform routine activities. Workplace stress can aggravate mental health challenges, which can lead to absenteeism, which means that they stay off work regularly. 
  1. Decline in self-care and personal hygiene: Mental health challenges influence an individual’s self-care practices as well. When an employee arrives at work unkempt and disheveled, and it’s out of character, take it as an indication that they are experiencing challenges and may require mental health support. An individual’s capacity to engage in routine self-care practices might be impacted by mental health challenges or prolonged stress and fatigue.
  1. Difficulty making decisions: Mental health concerns like an experience of anxiety,depression can impact an employee’s ability to make decisions stemming from not being sure, experiencing self-doubt, confusion or being in constant fear of making the wrong decision.. This may present itself as disengagement at work or lack of initiative.
  1. High Staff Turnover: Staff turnover refers to the rate at which employees leave the organisation. Employees experiencing mental health concerns with no support or understanding from the management team may resign if they believe their situation will not improve while at work. Employers should monitor and track the trends of employee exit and map out the reasons for the same. Bringing change in management styles and openness to providing support may go a long way to understanding employees needs and decreasing turnover rate.

If you notice an employee’s behavior or performance shifting over time, set aside some time to check in with them about their well-being. Understand the kind of support that the organisation can provide to them beforehand. This conversation needs to be had in an empathetic way and without blame. Demonstrate genuine care and concern for the employee as a valuable resource and individual. You may make a big difference by doing so and checking in fosters a caring culture in the workplace. You can also refer the employee to your Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) for further mental health support. 

We have collated a list of resources you can access in case you do not have in house mental health support here.

Written by Tanisha Chawla, Contributors: Rosanna Rodrigues and Samriti Makkar Midha

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