5 ways to improve mental wellbeing at work
- In 2020/21 there were 822,000 employees suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
- 1 in 5 people don’t seek professional care for at least 6 months.
- Mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £117.9 billion per annum.
- 76% of employees believe their company should be doing more to protect the mental health of their workforce.
These statistics are staggering. But the same conclusion can be reached from all of them – UK businesses must do more to support employees with their mental health.
How to improve the mental wellbeing of employees
It is important to note that any mental wellbeing initiative cannot be a standalone project. It isn’t something that should just be mentioned during Mental Health Awareness Week. It needs to be deeply ingrained in the culture of the organisation.
But the following 5 steps will help you build a culture that better supports your employees with their mental wellbeing.
- Make support networks accessible
Mental wellbeing is complex. For you to provide effective mental healthcare it is likely that you will need support from professionals. This could be:
- Trained mental health first aiders within your organisation.
- An external mental healthcare support scheme provided by a professional body.
- Signposts to charities and helplines (some of which are listed at the bottom of this blog).
In many cases, all three of the above may be the best option.
Alongside these support networks you also need a clear mental health policy. Your employees need to know that you take mental health seriously and hold significant importance over their wellbeing.
Once you have the right policy and support in place, the remaining 5 steps will help you convert your culture into a more supportive environment for those experiencing mental health challenges.
2. Consider how your work environment impacts mental health
To know how to effectively support your team you need to know if there are any factors that could have a negative impact on mental health. For example, a big project with tight deadlines, a noisy work environment, an increase in lone working, or poorly managed change could all cause mental health problems. By taking into consideration all the possible triggers and ensuring you monitor and measure them, you can make the necessary changes or interventions to protect your staff.
3. Remove the perception barrier
As the statistic at the start of this blog pointed out, many people are reluctant to seek professional help. That is because there is still a huge stigma around mental health. Many people put excessive pressure on themselves and believe their employer would regard a mental health issues as a weakness or failure.
Your employees need to feel comfortable and confident in sharing their experiences. They need to know that good health, both mental and physical, is a company priority. The best way to achieve this is to lead from the top. If senior leaders and line managers are honest and open, the barriers will begin to lift.
4. Equip your line managers with the right tools
If an employee went to their line manager and informed them they were struggling with their mental wellbeing, are you confident that all your line managers would know how to respond? If not, this needs to change. Here’s a few things that are worth considering:
- Mental health training.
- A recap of your mental health policy.
- A reminder of the importance of regular 1:1s or catch ups.
- Encouraging line managers to speak out about their own mental health.
- Signposting line managers to guidance on how to start the conversation. (This factsheet has some useful guidance.)
Ultimately, if your line managers are confident, your employees will feel better supported.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The more we communicate about something the more comfortable we feel. But we are all different and we prefer to consume information, and engage, in different ways. Therefore, the more channels you use to spread the message the more aware your employees will be of your commitment to support their mental health. From the induction process, through to articles, posters, weekly tips for line managers and guest speakers at company conferences. Every time you discuss mental wellbeing, it has the potential to resonate with another person.
Useful mental health in work resources
The steps above have been collated from some of the UK’s leading mental health charities and support organisations. There are some brilliant resources available to help you better support employees with their mental health. Here is a collection of some of those:
Legal guidance surrounding mental health from ACAS
Guidance specifically for line managers from CIPD
An overview of mental health at work from Mind.
Ways to tackle loneliness (the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022)
How to get help for mental health from the NHS.