The importance of supporting employees’ mental wellbeing at work has never been greater. How can employers turn awareness into action and create a mentally health company? Here are 10 key tips:
Embed mental wellbeing in your culture
According to research quoted by the World Health Organisation, 49% of workers do not feel they have a workplace culture that enables people to open up about mental wellbeing. But that doesn’t mean mental health challenges don’t exist.
For example, recent research from the Law Society found that 93% of junior lawyers said they felt stressed in the role in the month before the survey. And while benefits such as private medical insurance or employee assistance programmes can help, building a company culture that makes supporting mental wellbeing part of everyday life requires business-wide commitment and often a change of mindset within a business.
Share experiences and build a community
From board members speaking publicly about their personal experiences, through to online forums where staff can swap tips on coping strategies, sharing experiences can be a powerful means of support.
For example, António Horta-Osório, former CEO of Lloyds Banking Group has spoken in the national press about his own experiences with mental ill-health and has been a personal advocate of creating a culture of openness across the banking group.
Help employees to look after their own mental wellbeing
Incorporating mental wellbeing into workplace learning and development programmes is just one way of helping all employees become more aware of the importance of looking after their own mental health. There are also many apps and other digital tools which can help employees as part of a wider strategy to support their own wellbeing.
According to Hidden Talent 2, recent research from the PLSA and the High Pay Centre, only 4% of FTSE 100 companies report on employees’ mental wellbeing in their annual reports. But this is an important factor in demonstrating that employees are being treated well – which in turn can lead to better productivity and offers evidence of a well-run company.
Link mental health with physical and financial wellbeing
Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, insufficient exercise, and other factors such as alcohol abuse can all affect employees’ mental wellbeing. Similarly, financial worries, such as debt, are a major factor in poor mental health. A joined-up wellbeing strategy that ties all these elements together will deliver the greatest benefit.
Plan in recovery time
Many jobs occasionally require intense periods of challenging or long-hours work. But continually requiring employees to work excessive hours or under pressure will affect their wellbeing over time. Make sure that there is support to help employees through periods of intense work, that it has a clear end-point – and that they get proper recovery time afterwards.
Look outside the workplace
Mental wellbeing has had a much higher public profile in recent years and employers can take inspiration from many sources including government initiatives, such as Thriving at Work, the government-sponsored action plan for mental health at work and charities like Heads Together that to support mental wellbeing more generally.
External validation such as signing the Time to Change Pledge can also help to show that employers are really committed to staff wellbeing.
Know your workforce and the mental health challenges they face
Knowing more about what is affecting different sections of the workforce is an important precursor to being able to help them. Carrying out a ‘wellbeing audit’, combining anonymous questionnaire data with face-to-face feedback from staff is a crucial first step to understanding where the problems lie and where to focus effort in helping.
Bodies such as the City Mental Health Alliance also offer help and support for organisations in specific industry sectors where businesses and employees face similar challenges.
Promote good line management practices
According to recent research from the CIPD, heavy workloads and management style are the two biggest drivers of stress at work. Line managers are often under pressure themselves and that, combined with insufficient training and poor management practice, is a toxic mix that will ultimate affect team members’ mental health. Simple rules, such as not emailing staff outside office hours, and training managers in spotting when staff are struggling can make a vital difference.
Get everyone involved
Successful wellbeing strategies need support across all levels. That includes the commitment of the board, staff who can champion mental health in different areas of the business, line managers, mental health first aiders and every single employee. This also applies to making sure that support is on offer to everyone in the organisation – a large salary and a board-level job title offer no protection against mental ill-health.