The workplace has come a long way over the last 10 years in recognising the importance of employee mental wellbeing. Since the pandemic, this has been highlighted as even more significant, with many organisations across the globe moving to a remote working or hybrid working model.
Mental health problems cost the UK £117.9 billion annually according to the Mental Health Foundation. And for every £1 invested in mental health and wellbeing, organisations save up to 18% of their costs. By taking mental health and wellbeing in the workplace seriously, the benefits can be remarkable.
Whilst the emphasis and importance of mental wellbeing has vastly improved, many organisations are still struggling to address the challenges and the stigma attached to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
There are many influencing factors at play, but here are five easy steps you can take to help drive improvements to mental wellbeing in your workplace:
Mental health and wellbeing is now part of many organisations’ health and safety policy. With hybrid and remote working fast becoming the norm, employees can often feel isolated working away from their colleagues, which is why the mental health of staff should be a priority for all businesses.
The government produces a series of policies and guidelines to support mental health in the workplace – but these need careful implementation. All policies need the support of managers to create a plan for how to use them and how to read the signs of employees struggling with their mental health. See latest government legislation here.
Having an open dialogue with teams and ensuring managers are supported is a crucial first step in creating the right culture for mental health and wellbeing welfare. There are foundations and charities providing free resources and support to employees. Managers can also ensure a work / life balance for employees to help reduce work related stress.
Anticipate issues and address them with teams and employees. This is more effective than waiting for employees to come to you and having to be reactive.
A proactive approach can be in any form of a campaign – starting with a conversation, or a short employee survey, through to an online eLearning campaign or a series of podcasts. Giving employees access to apps such as Headspace and other social tools could also be used as preventative measures to help them prioritise their own mental health. Virtual social events or face-to-face meetings when necessary are all ways to help employees improve their mental health. Discover more ways to improve your employee’s mental health here.
Positive effects on performance can and should be measured. Find ways to look into this so you can do more of what works! For example, coming into the office for meetings or having catch ups with employees outside of your workspace or a coffee in a different environment can really help reduce stress and anxiety, resulting in better relationships and stronger conversations.
Collaborate with other team managers to get insight into how they are managing their staff and find solutions that would work with HR for example having a sports and social club that is run by the staff for the staff – this helps make work a meaningful place to work, somewhere friendships are formed and not just where business is done. This can really help engagement amongst the staff and allow employees to look forward to key social dates – as well as improve collaboration across different departments.
Achieving a holistic, inclusive wellbeing strategy, that incorporates mental health, is a challenge that many employers grapple with. Becky Thoseby, Department for Transport’s Group Head of Wellbeing asked employees to define what wellbeing means to them - creating a person-centred approach to make wellbeing truly inclusive.
Some symptoms of mental illness can manifest themselves as poor performance at work, missing deadlines, failing to get work done. However, by having a clear element of expectations on the employee to share their thoughts on their own wellbeing, this means the employer can act as a facilitator and enabler, to help resolve the issues.
"We believe each person is their own best expert and has the right to define what wellbeing means to them, and the responsibility for that lies with the employee. We expect them to take care of themselves, be open with their line manager about their issues, and ask for help when they need it. The role of the employer is that of an enabler, or facilitator – and part of this is meeting our legal obligations towards our employees. These elements are largely covered by Health & Safety and Employee Relations colleagues, both of whom I work closely with” - Becky Thoseby, Department for Transport’s Group Head of Wellbeing
The entire business world is striving to learn and benefit from best case examples of what works to address mental wellbeing in the workplace. The truth is, that no one team or individual employee in any given company will have the exact same mental health challenges (causes, coping mechanisms or even the factors contributing to the mental wellbeing at work) as another. So, all cases are unique.
For that reason, a company must create a culture of sharing what is working, what doesn’t work and what worked best in each given scenario. Also there will be new ideas that help drive change that will work one year, but not the next. This can be as a result of changes to working patterns or locations as we’ve seen through the pandemic. So it is a constant cycle of improvement that must be shared openly within the company and with their employees.
For more information on how to get started with online mental health training and educating your workforce click here. Or browse our latest mental health and wellbeing courses here. We also have a vast range of free resources to get started with.