Mental Health Awareness Week (13 – 19 May) is a great opportunity for businesses to start a conversation about Mental Health and show their support their employees’ wellbeing.
We asked Mental Health specialist and Chartered Psychologist, Dr Niki Giatras, for her top tips for companies to help look after the Mental Health and wellbeing of their staff.
Niki is the Founder of Square Mile Wellbeing and has over 13 years experience working in academia and mental health research and uses an evidence-based approach to help HR professionals and business leaders improve health and wellbeing in the workplace
7 tips for businesses to help improve employee mental health and wellbeing
1. Demonstrate senior level buy-in
Buy-in from senior leaders in an organisation is essential to change the culture of your workplace. It’s one thing to talk-the-talk but another to walk-the-walk. Attitudes filter down from leaders and must be backed up with policies and procedures.
Senior leaders should:
– Position mental health as a boardroom issue on par with physical health.
– Consider that positive wellbeing has a well-documented impact on productivity, performance and employee engagement. Supporting wellbeing is good business for everybody1.
2. Have policies to address mental health issues in the workplace
1 in 3 of the UK workforce have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime1. Whether an employer has a standalone policy or addresses mental health within existing policies, it’s important employees are informed about what they should do when encountering mental ill health. A clear mental health policy establishes a framework for everyone to work within and shows new recruits and current employees that the organisation takes their mental wellbeing seriously2.
3. Raise awareness about mental health (all year around)
Mental health is still a taboo subject in the workplace. Sixty-seven percent of employees feel scared, embarrassed or unable to talk about mental health concerns with their employer3 .
Addressing the stigma and discrimination in the workplace is one step closer to ensuring that people feel they can come forward and seek help. Create an environment where conversations about mental health are ‘normal’, as normal as physical health.
4. Recruit and train Mental Health First Aiders and Champions
Only 16% of employees feel able to disclose a mental health issue to their manager6. In most organisations you’ll find people who are passionate about mental health. Recruit them to be your Mental Health First Aiders and champions! Becoming a mental health first aider or champion will help employees and your workplace by:
- teaching practical skills that can be used in everyday life and at work, including being able to spot the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and feel confident guiding people towards appropriate support
- providing a deeper understanding of the issues that impact on and relate to people’s mental health issues
- promoting early intervention which enables recovery
- knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to appropriate support4.
5. Communication strategy
Many organisations provide support services to employees but they are not clearly signposted and therefore under-used. It’s important to provide information about what exactly is available to all employees and how they can access services when in need.
6. Set a budget aside and invest.
It’s important that the resources necessary to implement an impactful mental health and wellbeing agenda are available with funds earmarked and employee time allocated to the cause.
7. Encourage physical activity
Encourage activities that promote good mental health, for example lunchtime exercise or relaxation classes5.
1. MHFA England – Mental Health First Aiders in the Workplace, Guide for Employers
2. Time to Change. Employer Pledge
3. Time to Change, 2011
4. MHFA England. https://www.mhfaengland.org.
5. Mental Health Foundation, Work-Life Balance, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/w/work-life-balance.
6. Business in the Community, 2018: Mental Health at Work Report