Did you know that 1 in 6 people experience mental health problems in the workplace? And that the Office of National Statistics reports that at least 12.7% of all sickness absence in the UK is due to factors around mental health? We look at the benefits of promoting and supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace, and give you some hints and tips about small changes you can make to see an immediate impact.
Mental Health in the Workplace
According to the World Health Organisation, ‘without effective support, mental disorders and other mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work, capacity to work productively, absences and the ease with which to retain or gain work’. Although being employed and going to work can be a protective factor for mental health, working conditions and workload can also contribute to impaired mental health.
Under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees and this includes employees’ mental health. Additionally, studies have consistently shown that workplaces that support mental health and wellbeing are more likely to benefit from increased productivity, less sickness absence, increased workforce loyalty and increased staff retention.
So, what can you do to help promote a positive attitude to mental health in your organisation and help your team to increase their mental wellbeing? Let’s take a look.
Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace
1. Promote a positive work culture
The culture of your workplace and the environment your provide for your team to work in can have a significant impact on employee wellbeing, in turn affecting mental health. A transparent, supportive and positive work culture with effective leaders demonstrates to employees that managers care about them and their wellbeing, and want to lead by example. Communicating with your team, making them feel included, and letting them know about the long term goals of the organisation helps employees to feel supported and valued.
Providing frequent, clear communications about important topics helps to keep the channels of communication open. Raising awareness about important issues and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion can all help your team to feel recognised and respected. Employees who feel able to be their authentic selves in the workplace report lowered feelings of stress and increased productivity.
Managers who advocate for mental health and model best practice to their teams can make a big difference. Make sure you have clear policies and guidance around important topics and promote employee wellbeing at every opportunity. Employees who feel cared about will often have increased self-esteem and this can help build mental resilience.
2. Reduce stigma
Know the facts. Use reputable sources to educate yourself about mental wellbeing and the issues surrounding mental health at work and make sure you pass your knowledge on to your supervisors, employees and team as a whole. Educate others.Be conscious of the language you use – use proper terminology and respond to negative comments or misperceptions with positive reinforcement.
Address mental health stigma in the workplace by promoting a culture of acceptance and understanding. Showing compassion can help employees feel more comfortable seeking help and support if and when they need it and less fearful of judgement. Implementing a mental health policy, encouraging open conversations and taking action to increase awareness around mental health can all help to reduce stigma.
3. Provide training, education and resources
Providing training and education to employees about mental health, stress management, and wellbeing helps raise awareness, reduces stigma and works towards creating a mentally healthy workplace. Training can include include workshops, seminars, and online training courses.
Mental Health Awareness training is essential for all organisations, it helps you to understand the different factors that can affect your mental health and gives you knowledge and support for dealing with mental health issues should they arise. Mental health awareness training helps you to recognise the early signs and warnings of mental illness, and gives you the confidence to support those who need it. Providing training to your whole team can be a conversation starter, and it also helps build coping strategies and resilience, reduces stigma, and reinforces a positive workplace culture.
4. Recognise achievements
Recognise employees’ achievements and provide feedback when they do a good job. This helps them feel valued and appreciated which can build self-esteem and mental wellbeing. Recognition lets employees know that their company appreciates and values them and the contributions they make. Recognising teams as well as individuals can build a sense of community and belonging which is great for supporting mental positivity and resilience. If your organisation is expanding or evolving – or downsizing or making changes – recognising individual and team achievements helps employees to feel valued and secure and demonstrates how significant they are to the company. Establishing a sense of confidence in employees also promotes and inspires high standards of work and company loyalty.
5. Set realistic goals
Ensure that workloads are reasonable and set achievable goals. This can help employees feel a sense of accomplishment and reduce stress. Setting and achieving goals is important for confidence and self-esteem. If an employee regularly feels like they’re not meeting or achieving their goals, this can be demoralising and demotivating. Feelings of failure and inadequacy can impact mental health and wellbeing, so making sure the goals you set for your team are realistic and achievable is a really important aspect of supporting mentally healthy workplaces and avoiding employee overwhelm.
6. Provide employee assistance programmes
According to BUPA, Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are an employee benefit that can provide support and practical advice on issues that may be impacting their wellbeing and performance. Confidential and professional support is given to employees who are dealing with personal or work-related issues with the aim of increasing staff wellbeing and productivity, and reducing absences. These type of programmes often include access to face-to-face, telephone and online counselling and experts on hand to support your employees. Offering these types of benefits can help your team to feel supported and valued and often knowing that your employer offers this benefit can make them feel valued and supported, increasing wellbeing through your team as a whole.
7. Offer flexible working arrangements
Since the Covid pandemic which saw many people working from home, flexible working arrangements have become one of the most sought after employee benefits.
For employees who are struggling with mental health issues or trying to manage anxiety, depression or stress, working flexibly (remote work, flexible schedules, or job sharing) can help them to manage their work-life balance, reduce stress levels, and improve mental health.
Research shows that most employees want flexibility in their working location and schedule. Many employees prefer fully remote positions that offer the freedom to work from any location and where this isn’t possible, hybrid arrangements that enable employees to work from home a few days per week are favoured. For jobs that cannot be performed remotely, offering flexible work hours, such as non-traditional work hours or compressed workweeks, is the next best alternative. Consider the structure of your team and their working arrangements – it may be easier to make small and simple changes than you realise.
8. Encourage physical activity and healthy habits
Encouraging physical activity and healthy habits can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing. This can be achieved by promoting regular breaks, providing healthy food options in staff canteens, and offering gym memberships or discounts on leisurewear or fitness classes. Although not all organisations have the budget to promote these lifestyle incentives, think about what you can do. Is there a small outside area where staff can be encouraged to take a break and stretch their legs? Could you promote walking schemes or groups or even start one of your own? Do your always order lunch in from a fast food outlet? Helping to incentivise healthy eating and promoting the benefits for a healthy mind is a great change you can easily make.
9. Encourage social connections
Social connections are important for mental wellbeing. Creating opportunities for your team to socialise can help build a collaborative workforce, increase resilience and self confidence, and support mental health. This is especially important if you have employees who work from home or in hybrid roles. Human beings are social creatures and human interaction is an important part of mental wellbeing.
Encouraging team-building activities such as team lunches, dinners or coffee breaks can help your team get to know each other in a social situation. Could you start a book club or film club? What about going bowling or on a cinema trip? Encouraging your team to socialise can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing – if employees feel that they have people who care about them at work this can promote self esteem and reduce levels of stress and anxiety.
Allow employees the option to opt-out – not everyone feels comfortable socialising with their workmates and if they feel pressured to join in, this can have a negative impact on wellbeing which goes against the purpose of the activity.
10. Promote a work-life balance
Individuals who have a good work-life balance usually report lowered stress levels and increased feelings of positivity and commitment. This in turn leads to lower levels of absenteeism, more productivity and better staff retention. Mental health and wellbeing is improved in those who feel they have a good work-life balance.
As a manager, focus on employee productivity rather than the number of hours they’ve worked.Encourage employees to take breaks, set reasonable deadlines, and prioritise self-care. This can help reduce stress and prevent burnout.
In summary, there are lots of steps we can all take to try to increase employee wellbeing and promote good mental health. Creating a supportive and positive work environment that prioritises mental wellbeing can have significant benefits for both employees and the organisation and with a few tweaks it can be easier to achieve than you think!
For further information and resources to support your team, take a look at our wellbeing suite of courses. We cover everything from Mental Health Awareness to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Drug and Alcohol Awareness, Stress Awareness and Menopause.