Recognise mental illness in their employees at an early stage

916355086 916355086

The mental illness of an employee not only puts a strain on private relationships, but also on life at work. Early detection and treatment are therefore crucial.

Early recognition of employees with psychological problems

Mental illness is widespread. It counts as one of the most common diseases of all and has a severe negative impact on sufferers and their environment.

It affects all areas of life and impairs the person’s quality of life, everyday routine, and ability to work.

Various scientific studies prove that early detection and appropriate treatment can protect the condition from developing into chronic mental illness. Especially in a professional context, we often don’t feel easy talking about personal issues. And as a manager, inhibitions are even higher when it comes to approaching employees about unusual behaviour.

An open conversation can bring relief

However, an open conversation can bring welcome relief to employees with psychological problems. It allows them to discuss which tasks have become difficult and what can be done to help. Let's say an employee is suffering from slight depression. They are blocked when having to talk to customers on the phone – but answering emails is no problem. By changing the employee’s work activities, the manager can provide instrumental support in helping relieve the problem.

Often, however, such a conversation doesn't take place because managers don't feel confident or properly equipped to address this sensitive subject.

Finding the right approach can be a challenge for managers. A guide has been designed to provide instrumental support.

Address an employee’s mental health condition

The following guide issued by SVA Zürich (Zurich Social Insurance Office), our partner in prevention and professional integration, is designed to assist managers in dealing with employees with mental illness, and in its early detection. The aim of this guide is to enable managers to recognise mental problems in the working environment and to tackle them with confidence. The guide is a tool, drawn up to provide managers with orientation and practical help in their managerial duties.

Guideline for managers

  1. Be attentive
    Watch out for first signs. Managers should watch out for any unaccustomed or disconcerting behaviour. Employees with psychological problems differ in the way they react. In their observations, managers should note the person’s performance. Is productivity dropping? And how does the person act within the team?
  2. Ascertain
    Note your observations in concrete terms. Where does the employee's performance and behaviour differ from expectations? Formulate the goal you want to set yourself as a manager: what would I like to like to achieve in conjunction with the employee? Should I hold a meeting to offer constructive criticism?
  3. Address
    Use the conversation to achieve clarity. Describe your own observations. The manager should state what they wish to achieve with this conversation. Then agree on concrete steps with the employee. What needs to be improved before the next meeting?
  4. Ask
    Encourage the employee to take action. Schedule the next meeting to take place soon after the first. If the person is suffering from a serious mental health condition, they may not be in a position to meet the agreed requirements. It’s therefore important to assure support and to encourage the employee to take concrete action.
  5. Remain active
    Give regular feedback. Changes aren't felt overnight. Employees with psychological problems often lack confidence. They need close support from their manager. It is worth planning regular feedback sessions. The manager should also indicate that their door is always open.

Initial actionable steps – Flexibility can save jobs

  • Reduce working hours
  • Simplify tasks and structure them more clearly
  • Reduce planning responsibility
  • Organise more short breaks
  • Provide a quiet working environment
  • Enable individual work
  • Give feedback on a weekly basis