Mental health can affect all of us, one way or another. While people are gradually becoming more open to discussing it, mental health is still very much a taboo — particularly in the workplace.
Poor mental health can have a significant impact on a business. Struggling employees make for lost productivity and missed working days, not to mention serious damage to their long-term health.
Consequently, it’s up to employers to create a mental health-positive workplace for their staff. Here’s how.
Train managers on mental health issues
One of the best ways to create a mental-health positive workplace is by making it a priority for managers and senior staff. It’s all well and good saying that mental health matters, but if it’s not treated as such by those leading a team, then it will fall flat.
Provide your managing staff with mental health awareness training. There are lots of providers in the UK who can provide training on a range of workplace mental health issues. Reach out to them and give managers time off to attend.
This not only ensures that each member of that manager’s team has someone they can speak to safely, but it also gives managers the skills to recognise when their employees are suffering.
Appoint a mental health ambassador
Training each manager in mental health awareness is a good way to create a positive environment for those with such issues. But if your resources don’t stretch that far (and even if they do), it’s worth appointing a designated mental health ambassador.
A mental health ambassador is a cost-effective alternative to managerial training that gives employees a point of contact for their concerns.
These ambassadors have one-on-one conversations with employees about their specific mental health needs. They provide a listening ear and a voice of counsel, acting as the first point of contact for staff members as required. Most large workplaces have a mental health ambassador as standard, and it’s something well worth investing in.
Reach out to charities for workplace advice
If you’re creating a mental health positive workplace, it’s important to visibly show your commitments to your employees. Let your staff know that you are genuinely committed to mental health as a social issue.
You can achieve this by partnering with prominent mental health charities, both for fundraising initiatives and for onsite education and guidance. Charities like Mind, for instance, often visit workplaces to provide bespoke presentations to employees about mental health in the workplace.
Give your employees (in particular your managers and HR team) the opportunity to ask the charity questions specific to their own roles and situation. This lets them receive authoritative advice tailored to their own needs, in turn creating a mental health-positive workplace.
Encourage a healthy work-life balance
In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on a healthy work-life balance. The 80s notion of ‘greed is good, work till you drop’ has become dated in the face of increasing workplace stress and anxiety.
A balance between work and home is crucial for maintaining your employees’ mental health. One way to achieve this is by implementing flexible working hours. This gives staff the ability to attend doctors' appointments, avoid rush hour traffic, drop kids off at school, and spend time with them in the morning and evening, amongst other benefits.
Build mental health into your company policy
Company policy is there for a reason. It gives employees something to refer to when they have a query and prevents confusion around correct procedures. They cover everything from sick leave to company culture and should include mental health stipulations too.
Enshrining your company’s mental health commitments into your company policy gives employees concrete protection against discrimination in the workplace. Beyond this, it also protects you against potential lawsuits should they arise.
When you introduce mental health clauses into your company policy, take the opportunity to discuss it with your staff first. Making your employees part of the discussion shows that you take their insights — and their mental health — seriously.
Don’t neglect your senior staff
When you’re striving to create a mental health-positive workplace, it’s easy to forget that a workplace includes all its employees — including your senior staff.
People in high positions of power often feel uncomfortable discussing their own mental health needs. When they have employees, clients and, indeed, entire businesses resting on their shoulders, their own concerns take a back seat.
But being the boss can be a demanding experience — between building a business, managing a team, liaising with clients, and other required tasks, it can lead to chronic stress, severe anxiety and depression, and even suicide.
Consequently, as you’re implementing mental health-positive initiatives into your workplace, don’t forget to make them accessible to senior staff too. Ensure mental health seminars are attended by all staff, not just those on the floor. Encourage senior staff to embrace flexible hours, rather than staying late at the office. Mental health can affect everyone, so make sure everyone is included.
When we spend most of our waking hours at work, it’s important to make it a positive environment for our mental health. Follow the tips above and create a mental health-positive workplace that benefits all employees, no matter what their role.