One in four people reading this will suffer from stress, depression or other mental health conditions at some point during their lifetime. Do you currently have a diagnosis? (Disclosure: at least three of us do, here at StrawberrySocial).

You may be expert at managing your illness both at work and at home. But do you share this with co-workers, or keep it under wraps? And would you have the confidence to ask your boss for a mental health day if you needed time off to recover, away from the challenges of the workplace?

Although mental health at work is becoming less of a stigma, there’s a long way to go until a person with depression can expect the same support as a worker with a broken ankle, for example. Colleagues will rush to help someone wearing plaster and hobbling round the office on crutches. But with depression, the sufferer is fighting an invisible battle, and their struggle may only manifest in negative behaviours, making people even less likely to sympathise or offer help.

It’s not disingenuous to equate physical injury with mental illness. Launched last week, the new #thrivingatwork report on mental health in the workplace found the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions. Commissioned by the government, this report urged employers to commit to six core standards around mental health – essentially, to start to take responsibility for the mental health of their staff:

  1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
  2. Develop mental health awareness among employees
  3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  4. Provide your employees with good working conditions
  5. Promote effective people management
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

StrawberrySocial is a company that is proud to support a number of clients in the charity sector. However, this brings with it a special set of challenges, involving online interactions with people experiencing mental and emotional distress, which can, in turn, take a toll on community moderators. The StrawberrySocial approach aims to help our moderators respond to difficult situations online, and manage their wellbeing at work.

Shaz Collier, the Client Services Manager at StrawberrySocial, has worked as part of a task force to implement a company-wide Employee Resilience Programme in a previous role.

She said: “We’re lucky to have a highly talented team of remote workers and it’s important to us that our workforce is empathetic towards our charity forum clients, but remain personally resilient, as sometimes the subject matter can be distressing.

“Although we don’t have any rigid procedures in place, we’re well aware our moderators are at risk of compassion fatigue, occupational burnout and reduced job satisfaction. Even the best moderators can experience frustration, depression, or helplessness.

“The team know they can confide in me anytime and I have managed to implement solutions where they have shared their concerns. This helps team members to move past their feelings, and feel positive about moving forward, and successfully do their work.”

Shaz added: “Our policy is not to wait for them to approach us, but we reach out to them by keeping an eye out for various trigger behaviour changes or warning signals that could mean our moderators are at risk. Our communication style means they know they are not in trouble, but we are concerned and want to prioritise their wellbeing. We will empower our people to switch projects where possible.”

“You are not weak or unable to do your job if you experience any of these challenges. We’re all in favour of mental health days and both Rebecca (StrawberrySocial MD) and I have taken them in the past.”

Do you offer mental health days at your company or organisation?