Are you one of the 43% of firms who’ve had staff absent for more than 4 weeks?

Hopefully this isn’t you and everyone is in work today being very productive. If that’s not the case and you’re worrying about how to get staff back to work then it’s probably time to get in touch… 

We can offer a FREE needs analysis meeting to discuss all of your requirements and any of those tricky absence issues you may have!

We have a network of branches across the North West – Liverpool, Wirral, Lancaster, Wigan, Barrow, Garstang and Ellesmere Port – where we are able to hold appointments with clients.

  • To find out more about how FOHCUS can help, please contact our Merseyside team on 0151 601 2444 or our Lancashire/Cumbria team on 01524 844011 or email:
Don’t ask your staff to become mental health experts

Don’t ask your staff to become mental health experts

It is a real positive that employers and society in general now talk openly about issues around mental health.

An ever-growing number of businesses are seeking the advice of specialists such as FOHCUS to put in place effective strategies that provide their staff with the right support when they need it.

The businesses benefit because they are taking active steps to manage the wellbeing of their employees creating happy and, in turn, more productive workers.

Mental health is the third biggest cause of absence in the workplace after stress and ill health. Alongside this, you have the issue of ‘presenteeism’ which, according to the Centre for Mental Health, accounts for 1.5 times more lost productivity than absences.

Mental health associated absences cost UK employers more than £25billion a year – equating to more than £1,000 per employee.

Some businesses now have their own mental health first aiders. Mental health first aid is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid. The objective is to have designated employees in your business with the skills and confidence to spot the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support.

Those last few words about ‘guiding a person towards the right support’ are vital.

What a business must never do is place too much responsibility or expectation on the company’s mental health first aider.

They are not trained medical practitioners and therefore it is essential that the individual and the wider business appreciate exactly what the role of the mental health first aider is.

The job of the mental health first aider is to spot an issue and escalate it as necessary to the right people.

In the first instance, this could be to HR if such a function exists in the business. The next call should almost certainly be to the employee’s family and, if this is not possible, then to their GP or A&E.

Companies sometimes, wrongly, have the view that A&E is not an option if the person hasn’t suffered an accident, but it is absolutely the right option if you want to get the employee into the arms of medical professionals at the earliest opportunity.

Every business should have a mental health procedure just as we all have a fire drill process.

People panic when there is a potential mental health situation in the workplace and think they should do things that they are simply not trained to do. You wouldn’t treat someone who has suffered a broken ankle, so why treat someone showing signs of a mental health issue any differently.

The key is to put in place a robust mental health strategy in which everyone knows their role. Perhaps the most important element – and the one we work with most with employers – is line manager training.

They need to be confident in understanding what to look for and the right questions to ask.

For example, if someone who is usually the life and soul of the party suddenly changes personality, then it might be an early warning sign that something is not right.

Companies and organisations that put in place effective mental health strategies are reaping the rewards in lots of different ways.

This includes improved productivity, increased staff engagement, reduced presenteeism and sick leave, greater compliance with Government legislation, improved staff retention and, most importantly of all, a happier and healthier workforce.

  • For a free initial consultation about your company’s mental health strategy, please contact or call our Merseyside team on 0151 601 2444 or our Lancashire/Cumbria team on 01524 844011.

FOHCUS has seven offices across the North West region including Liverpool, Wirral, Lancaster, Wigan, Barrow, Garstang and Ellesmere Port – where we are able to hold appointments with clients.

Tackling mental health in the workplace

Tackling mental health in the workplace

One of the most overused phrases in the workplace, and life in general, is “I’m feeling so stressed”.

Understanding what someone means when they say they are “stressed” is hugely important.

In some cases, “stress” is wrongly used by people who are facing a one-off deadline, perhaps a presentation to colleagues or a pitch for new business.

Twenty years ago, we would have simply referred to this as having “butterflies”.

The casual use of the “S” word is unhelpful when it comes to diagnosing those who really are suffering from a genuine form of stress.

Stress is dangerous when it is unrelenting and overwhelming, when someone feels every day brings more of the same and where there is no sense of successfully completing a task.

At FOHCUS, we have seen this in the teaching profession, in the NHS and in businesses where insufficient thought has been given to the wellbeing of employees.

The best way to tackle mental health in the workplace is to put in place the right policies and procedures and to ensure that line managers are sufficiently well trained to understand the signs that something isn’t right with a colleague – and to ensure they receive the necessary support and signposting to the correct health services.

For example, there is a considerable difference between someone feeling stress because of overwork and someone who is suffering from clinical depression, and therefore medically ill.

The solution is not to offer employees free gym memberships (these are invariably taken up by people who already go to the gym!) or to have mental health First Aiders in your business.

There are lots of other gimmicks that companies will try to sell into businesses to make them feel like they are taking a responsible approach to tackling mental health.

FOHCUS works with companies to put in place bespoke wellbeing plans from a clinician’s perspective.

This means ensuring that a business has a structured approach to wellbeing from the right pre-employment checks as part of a comprehensive health surveillance strategy through to the correct training and signposting of services.

Privately run businesses are not public services. Offering lunchtime yoga and pilates are “nice to haves” but the onus for exercising regularly, eating well and drinking in moderation are the responsibility of the individual, not the employer.

There are numerous benefits to putting in place the right wellbeing plan for a business. Most importantly, you are taking a proactive approach to ensuring your staff are in the best possible shape to work for you.

This should, in turn, help to make your company more productive. The right strategy should also encourage brand loyalty – helping to ensure high levels of employee happiness and staff retention.

Your employees are your most valuable assets. You would expect a company vehicle to have a pre-delivery check and, as a matter of course, an annual service. Why would you not give the same care and attention to your staff?

I am often asked what the difference is between “occupational health” and “wellbeing”. The answer is that traditional OH was reactive, intervening when a problem had already arisen, whereas wellbeing is a far more proactive and preventative form of OH.

The cost of not taking a proactive approach to mental health in the workplace can be hugely expensive and distracting for the business and the people who work for you.

But in setting a strategy, it is important to take a long-term view rather than implementing a couple of opportunistic, feel-good gimmicks.