How to create a mentally healthy workplace

Mental health is an issue that, according to mental health charity Mind, affects approximately 1 in 6 of people of working age.  That is no small number, it is something that all employers need to consider and make supporting mental health and those suffering part of their workplace culture.

What can you do to ensure you have a mentally healthy workplace?

1. Be open and talk about it…

While there has been a lot of progress in the past decade towards removing the stigma attached with mental health, for a lot of people it is still something they struggle to talk about for the fear of negatively impacting their career.  You need to make it clear to employees that should they wish to talk about any mental health issue, they will be treated with respect and given the support they need, without impacting their career with you.

Any cultural change within an organisation will take time, but being open about the subject will make it easier for employees to be open and honest about their mental health and any support they need.

2. Prioritise work-life balance

As we’ve discussed before, the modern workplace is a particularly stressful place. Balancing the demands of the office with those of home life is a big stress point. The always-on nature of modern technology means it is often hard for people to ‘escape the office’.  Work-life balance should be a priority for all, and we’re not just talking about offering flexible working or allowing people to work from home.  It could be limiting the hours that emails can be sent, encouraging people to leave on time and having those in charge lead by example, giving people the opportunity to switch off without feeling judged.

3. Lead by example

It isn’t enough to simply have a policy on mental health, those at the top need to show that they are committed to creating an open culture, where it is positively encouraged to discuss mental health.  That is isn’t something that is hidden or swept under the carpet.  How you do this is up to you, an open letter to all employees, an article on the intranet or presenting at staff events.

4. Remember line managers

The success of any wider policy on mental health rests on the skills of line managers.  While having a policy in place and promoting an open, accepting and supportive culture is fantastic.  If line managers aren’t giving the training and support needed to, not only spot the signs that someone needs help, but given the skills on how to deal with it, the culture won’t change.  Give them effective training to arm them with the skills and knowledge they need.

5. Don’t treat it in isolation

Mental health isn’t something that exists in isolation. It impacts many things, just as many things can have an impact on it.  Take a step back and look at your organisation as a whole.  Is there any policy or process that could be negatively impacting the mental wellbeing of your employees? It is important to understand this intersectionality of people management processes and wellbeing.

6. Work conversations don’t always have to be about work

It’s easy to focus on work being done, project status and targets during review or 1-2-1 meetings. But don’t forget that there is more to life and more to your employee than work.  Take reviews, or in fact any conversation as a chance to talk about non-work issues.  You don’t need to be best friends with everyone but taking the time to ask about them and their life, will help to build rapport, perhaps giving them to confidence and opportunity to talk about any issues affecting them.

7. Create wellness action plans

If you find one of your employees needs help then you need to create a wellness roadmap, an action plan that can help them manage their condition and work better.  Perhaps a weekly catch-up to help with workload management, offering a more flexible working pattern.  Whatever you do, it needs to be tailored to each individual and their specific issues.

8. Give your employees a voice…

Everybody likes to know that what they are doing is meaningful and that their work and opinions are valued by their employers. In fact, positive feedback from above had been shown to create better employee engagement within organisations.  Giving your employees the chance to feedback, to offer ideas to feel that their voice is heard by those in charge will all help to foster a more positive working environment.

9. …and act on what they say

Following on from our previous point, you must follow through.  Don’t just gather ideas and feedback from employees and then do nothing with it. They’ll soon stop talking once they realise nothing happens. You need to act on their feedback.  If someone has a good idea, action it and celebrate the fact.

For an organisation to be a success it needs happy, productive and engaged workers.  Prioritising your employees physical and mental wellbeing isn’t just the right thing to do with regards to your employees, but the right thing to do for the success of your organisation.

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