World Mental Health Day on October 10th celebrates a global effort to address mental health and promotes openness and discussion about this increasingly prevalent topic. However, despite the high-profile focus and increased awareness of mental health over the last few years, there is still much room for improvement in addressing the issue.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, each year approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health condition. Poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion. It’s estimated that work-related stress, depression and anxiety accounts for more than 12.5 million working days being lost. Whether work is the cause of the health issue or not, employers have a legal and moral responsibility to help their employees. Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote and support mental health see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work.
So, what practical measures can be implemented in the workplace to create a culture of positive mental health and wellbeing?
Have a Mental Health Policy
Addressing mental health issues in the workplace starts with establishing a strong mental health policy. This gives employees and management a framework to encourage proper treatment. It also lets employees know that the organisation wants to remove any stigma surrounding mental health so they feel comfortable discussing any mental health issues.
Educating staff about common mental health issues and holding open discussions is an important part of promoting awareness and a greater understanding of the topic whilst also encouraging employees to seek support.
Encourage employee engagement with mental health initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness Week. Consider holding a Tea & Talk session in the workplace, a Mental Health Foundation initiative to encourage conversation and increase openness.
Foster a supportive culture
Provide training for managers to enable them to recognise, support and manage mental health problems. Ensuring line managers have an awareness of the common signs of stress will enable them to support colleagues early, before things get worse. Management should role model the behaviours that lead to a healthy working culture. Regularly asking how people are feeling, and following up with them, shows you care and gives them an opportunity to raise concerns before bigger problems arise.
Create open channels of communication
Encourage a culture of openness where people don’t bottle things up and can speak about any problems, concerns or worries. Open discussions can provide the opportunity for employees to give feedback about what changes could be made within the workplace to enhance wellbeing.
Consider training and appointing mental health “champions” or mental health First Aiders. Most importantly staff should know there is someone to reach out to within the organisation who they can go to for support if they need it.
Promote wellbeing at work
Promote the benefits of fresh air and exercise to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Encourage employees to get active and partake in physical activities such as yoga, running or cycling. Be creative and it doesn’t require a large budget – even a short walk at lunchtime or holding ‘walking meetings’ can be hugely beneficial.
Holding outdoor team building events can really increase morale whilst supporting both the physical and mental wellbeing of staff.
Provide accessible resources
Ultimately employers and managers are not expected to be experts in mental health. However, they should know where they and their team can go for further support both internally and externally. Create an accessible source of mental health and wellbeing information including links to initiatives, websites and useful signposts.
Lead from the front
Founders can also lead from the front and talk openly about these issues. Most importantly, look after and prioritise your own mental wellbeing. Take care of yourself remembering that you are a key asset to your business and so need to focus on and invest in your own self care in order to be productive and successful.
People are the most important asset in any business. That’s why genuinely caring about employees and having positive mental health at the heart of your people management strategy is essential for a happy workforce, increased productivity, sustained growth and long-term success.
For more information about how Purpose HR can help with an effective people management strategy, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org