Maintaining a healthy work environment is fundamental to ensuring a positive trajectory for any organisation. In recent years, mental health awareness has moved up the agenda for employers, with the fact that growing research demonstrates the importance of employee mental health and wellbeing and its close link to performance and productivity within the working environment. In light of this, it has become imperative for employers to implement clear strategies, which help educate management and their employees on the importance of addressing and understanding mental health.
A good starting point
Building mental health awareness in the workplace is not an overnight task, as it is an intricate and complex issue, which affects people in many different ways. Adopting a gradual approach to mental health awareness is key, in order for employees and their management teams to begin to comprehend the impact poor mental health can have on an the individual and those around them.
Employers should look towards creating an open culture, in which individuals are not afraid to make disclosures about their mental health concerns, with the ability to discuss them in a safe and non-judgemental environment. This often starts with management receiving training in mental health awareness, including how to recognise the signs and symptoms, how they can support their employee’s and engage in the open dialogue needed to create a supportive environment. Consider bringing in mental health experts to speak at a training session or individuals who have suffered from Mental Health themselves and received support.
Educating and supporting employees
Employers have a duty of care to consistently take note of their employees’ welfare, building awareness of mental health amongst employees is part and parcel of this. Whilst gradually improving, mental health conditions still carry a degree of stigma, which often prevents individuals from coming forward themselves or on behalf of another person.
Mental health is not as apparent or visible as physical ailments, but should still be discussed with the same degree of urgency and importance in order to help break the taboo of talking about how we feel. Employers should considered organising workshops or drop in sessions whereby various topics are covered from the causes of mental health through to what options are open for employees who would like to seek help.
Posters and leaflets should also be made visible throughout the workplace as a point of reference, particularly for employees who feel uncomfortable or nervous in coming forward and asking for advice. This will also reinforce to your employees that as a business, you are committed to stamping out mental health stigma and building a supportive network for all employees.
Having an Employee Assistance Programme in place is a useful tool to ensure that employees have support and trained professionals to talk to 24 hours a day if they are in need of any support, investing in this programme will mean that managers also have a place to refer employees to get the right support if needed.
The organisation as a whole
Employers could consider having an Occupational Health function embedded into the organisation, as they can assess individuals to determine what support may be needed within the workplace to ensure that we can keep employee’s in work and help them to feel supported during difficult periods whether this may be stress, depression or any form of Mental Health Condition there are adjustments and support employers can give to ensure employees are not only supported but able to remain in work and retain effectiveness.
Written Policies and procedures should also be embedded into the organisation which demonstrate how the organisation will approach stress management, including risk management assessments and promoting a healthy working environment. However, having the policies in place is not enough, they need to be embedded into the working culture by ensuring all employees are trained and aware of these policies.
As part of these procedures, managers should also be encouraged to adopt similar approaches and strategies with all employee’s including regular catch ups. In addition to ensure that managers are fully conversant on how to conduct return to work meetings if an employee has been absent due to mental health issues, so they can be aware of any underlying concerns.
David Price is CEO for Health Assured: the UK and Ireland’s most trusted health and wellbeing network. He advises employers daily on how to encourage and develop a healthy workplace, whilst outlining best practice guidance on how to combat and control workplace stress. David also speaks regularly to the press and media on mental health issues with his commentary profiled on SKY News, BBC and a regular contributor to Financial Adviser from the Financial Times.
David’s career has always centred on the development and wellbeing of employees. Before joining Peninsula, David spent several years in the senior management team at a leading national training provider, which helped more than 78,000 UK businesses start up. He has also worked for the Department for Work and Pensions and is a long standing member of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).