How to assess the emotional health of your workforce

No matter what your area of work, you can probably recall suffering distressing events which have disrupted your mental resilience and threatened to curb your usual workplace productivity. Such events include contending with illness, divorce, addiction or bereavement.

While certain stressors are practically unavoidable, you should still act to minimise their impact when they directly affect your staff’s emotional health. As observed by HR magazine, UK chief medical officer Sally Davies has reported 70 million working days being annually lost to mental health issues like stress and depression.

A worrying knock-on effect to the UK economy is a yearly loss of between £70 and £100 million. However, given how easily an array of mental health conditions can be left unreported, there would be an onus on you to take the initiative by measuring your workforce’s emotional health.

What is emotional health?

Before you can measure your staff’s emotional health, you need to know exactly what it is you are measuring. In an article for the World Economic Forum, emotional wellbeing is defined as ticking various particular boxes, including being self-aware, resiliently managing stress, contending well with emotional triggers – both positive and emotional – and reacting well to life crises.

Emotional health issues can evidence themselves in various ways, on which the line manager could be especially well-positioned to pick up. They ought to take notice if, for example, a typically measured employee turns irritable or they start booking much more time off work.

If a worker starts habitually turning up late due to often staying in bed, this could hint at an emerging episode of depression. Fortunately, such issues as depression and anxiety can be easy to recognise on account of the relatively common symptoms.

How to initially respond to warning signs

Should you discern signs of potential emotional health problems, an explanatory conversation with the person in question could trace the ultimate cause – potentially an influencing factor originating from outside the workplace. However, you might not succeed in recognising the culprit so readily.

“Evaluation is critically important,” declares Louise Ashton, a wellbeing director at the campaign group Business in The Community (BITC). For evaluative purposes, you could use “scores for specific questions in employee engagement surveys, sickness absence data, lost time, [and] injury rates”.

Potentially complicating the whole matter is the fact that emotional wellbeing remains just one pillar of integrated wellbeing vulnerable to the others of physical, financial and social wellbeing.

Consider implementing an employee assistance programme

Ashton advocates looking at “data from employee assistance programmes” as a “really easy” way to track mental health concerns. However, opting for employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can raise another issue – that of potentially low participation rates among employees.

While traditional EAPs reach less than 5% of employees, a modern EAP from a company like LifeWorks can provide you with a proactive solution that does not rely on emotionally troubled employees requesting help before they can receive treatment. It can all add up to a much happier and, thus, more productive workforce.