Five tips for promoting good mental health at work

It’s world mental health day, so what can employers do to make sure their workforce stays healthy and happy? Here are five useful pointers.

Mental health is being recognised as an important issue at work, yet still only 54% of employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health.1 How can this be improved? Prevention is better than cure, so here are some important steps employers can take to ensure workplace wellbeing.

  1. Train managers to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems and give them the confidence to listen and talk to their staff about what’s going on. Changes in behaviour or acting out of character (repeated lateness, people becoming withdrawn, angry outbursts, staying late – anything unusual) can signal that something is wrong, and managers need to be able to respond.
  2. Often managers themselves are the source of stress! Teach them good emotional intelligence techniques. Empathic listening, the ability to manage their own feelings at work (no point in taking their own anger out on the team), giving good feedback, being assertive without being aggressive – there are many ways to demonstrate coolness (and kindness) under fire.
  3. There’s still a stigma attached to mental health but raising managers’ awareness of the common conditions will help to demystify the subject. Be clear on what their responsibilities are (and what they aren’t). Have clear policies in place in case something unexpected happens (such as a sudden death or accident). Show them how they can support or signpost people for help.
  4. Offer employee benefits that help prevent as well as deal with mental health issues. For example, employees who are struggling because they have to care for a relative at home could enjoy carers’ support as part of their benefits package. Health cash plans may include stress-reducing activities like massage, and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) provide telephone and face-to-face counselling. The positive effect of exercise on mental and emotional wellbeing is well-documented, so benefits like gym membership or cycle to work schemes are a great idea too. (Incidentally, a good health cash plan will also offer physiotherapy/chiropractic cover, helping to address musculoskeletal disorders, another well-known cause of workplace absence.)
  5. Have mental health champions in the workplace, who are trained to raise awareness and support anyone who might need help. Remember that some mental health conditions are defined as disabilities, so under the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally obliged to look at reasonable adjustments to support people and not to treat them unfairly. Do make sure your Equality policy is up to date and used.

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As the workforce demographic changes, millennials are coming to expect more of their employers, so strong, empathic management will become even more important. Make sure your managers are equipped to promote positive mental health at work.

Would you like to know more about management training to foster good mental health, and creating a culture of wellbeing? Are you interested in Mental Health First Aid training? Then please get in touch.

1 Mental Health at Work Summary Report 2018, Business in the Community