How can you be an inclusive employer?

how can you be an inclusive employer

While many people with disabilities frequently experience being stereotyped, the mental health community has the added challenge of a condition that is generally invisible to the wider population. This is often caused by bias or lack of understanding.

It is invisible – so how do I know who is impacted? – and what can I do about it? 

These are questions I get asked about a lot in relation to mental health in the workplace.  Employees can be slow to share they have a disability, a medical condition or need some support for other reasons.  They are often afraid of being excluded or treated differently somehow. 

People can experience mental health challenges at any stage of life.  It could be the person in the queue in front of you at the canteen, the person who always looks perfectly in control of things at work, the person who has just handed in their notice.  Maybe even you.

In new research conducted by Maynooth University, published June 2022, it was found that over 40% of Irish adults have a mental health disorder. In 2018, Ireland had one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe, ranking joint third out of the 36 countries surveyed in the Health at a Glance report.

Mental health disabilities have traditionally been talked about in hushed tones, surrounded by stigma.

Stigma can prevent a person from seeking help.

Stigma can prevent people from answering questions truthfully and giving a stock answer of “I’m fine” when in reality, they are not.

If an employee does share that their mental health is not good, they may be uncertain as to what will happen next.  If the employee is unsure themselves, then the employer might be feeling just as uncertain in how to offer support.

What You Can Do?

There are many ways you can create an inclusive environment for your employees with poor mental health. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Remain calm and let them talk.
  • Listen to what they are saying.
  • Summarise what they have said to ensure you have understood correctly
  • Validate what they are telling you – do not dismiss what is being said.
  • Ask them how you can help.

 

  1. Regularly talk about mental health in the workplace.
  •   Mental health should be on the agenda of all team meetings.
  •   Employees should feel safe to voice their concerns.
  •   Participate in campaigns to support mental health awareness.
  •   Make a pledge to be stigma-free.

 

  1. Create open communication channels.
  •       Including people with poor mental health in your messaging about inclusion shows staff that you recognize their needs.
  •       Encourage staff to share their mental health experiences so you can provide them with reasonable accommodations.

As discussions about mental health in the workplace become more commonplace, organisations that embrace inclusion are more likely to attract and retain employees, with and without disabilities. Keep having those conversations and share this newsletter with your colleagues.

Thank you for your time to read this.