For Mental Health Awareness Week, we break down how you can support employees’ mental wellness.

On average, we spend 90,000 hours of our lives at work. One third of our life, working! And the truth is that we’re all likely to experience mental health challenges at some point in our working lives, whether that be stress, burnout or the long list of psychological issues we might experience in the workplace. Whilst conversations around mental health may have improved over the last 3 decades there’s still a stigma attached to the word. Maybe, one positive that’s come from the pandemic is  the necessity to talk about mental illness and the colossal impact it can have on both our personal and professional lives.

Protecting people and their mental health at work cannot be ignored. It’s vital that organizations put  actionable strategies into place for every single employee. 

To kick off Mental Health Awareness week, we explore the ways that you can support your people.

Mental health wellness in the workplace

In 2020/21 stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases in the UK. Costing UK business £2000 per employee or a staggering £118 billion per year. And that’s not even accounting for the 5 million that are self-employed, which brings a whole new level of pressure and stress. 

The Great Resignation, questionably one of the biggest HR crises the world has experienced, is a model of people prioritizing their well-being over work. With 47.8 million people (an average of 4 million per month) in the US in 2021, resigned from their jobs citing burnout, stress and a poor work environment as reasons for quitting.

Only 2% of the UK’s healthcare funds are spent on mental health strategies, leaving the burden on workplaces to pick up the slack. But the issue is that so many companies, including SME’s or startups don’t have funds to support this. Whilst those that have set aside a budget to support well-being, often don’t know where to even start.

There needs to be a paradigm shift in talking about mental health. It’s not a financial burden on companies but a positive investment in your people and workplace asset. A study from Harvard researchers reinforced the positive ROI from investing in employee well-being. Data showed that on average, every dollar spent on employee wellness saved employers $3.27 in health care spending and $2.73 from reduced absenteeism.

8 ways to help support employees mental health

We’ve compiled a list of 8 ways that your company can support your employees well-being and mental health. 

Offer mental health training for managers

This will help address mental health issues in a holistic way. Training supports managers in giving vital support and lets them understand the early warning signs of ill mental health within their team. Managers that have personally lived through a mental health struggle are a unique asset and should be an integral part of a working solution. 

Tackle discrimination 

By having a zero tolerance policy on bullying or discrimination towards those experiencing issues, will send a strong message company wide. Discrimintation against mental health needs to fit under the same umbrella as differentiators such as race, gender or age and must not be tolerated in the same way.  Put an anonymous whistleblower policy in place to help call out any bias or discrimination towards others. Make sure to include mental health strategies in your Diversity and Inclusion initiatives,covering not only stress, anxiety and depression but also grief, loss and loneliness. 

Build a transparent and open culture  

Communication really is key to making your employees feel well supported. Establish mirror communication by encouraging leadership to talk about their mental health experiences. This will help boost employees to open up about anything that they’re experiencing. 

Support and signpost mental health resources 

Introduce content that’s focused on giving mental health support, there’s an abundance of free resources that you can share (Mind, Mental Health at Work, Every mind at work). Use internal platforms to promote mindfulness, sharing information on how to destress, disconnect or have better sleep. Make sure the content is digestible and short (maximum 10 minutes in length). Follow up with e-learning guides from third sector organizations, such as WHO, to help employees understand more about mental health, how to stay well and how to support someone else. Digital tools are low cost, accessible and a great way to drive change.

Create a network of Mental Health Champions

Mental Health at Work have rolled out an initiative providing a supportive network aimed at listening, signposting and supporting people with their mental health. They develop bespoke mental health training programmes for companies via a series of workshops. Their framework approach helps organizations understand, manage and promote mental health at work. This has been rolled out in the UK, a pilot is being held currently in the US, and if successful will be expanded to other markets.

Allow flexible adjustments at work

For those struggling with mental illness or maybe with side effects of medication, allow them to readjust their working hours. If travel is needed in their position, allow them to travel on the previous day to avoid early or late flights/travel options that might increase stress or anxiety. Excuse employees from post-work commitments, dinners or client functions. Alleviating this kind of pressure can go a long way in showing support.

Run mental health workshops and webinars 

Whether you’re a remote company, hybrid or an office based organization, workshops and webinars can be part of your Employee Assistance Program (EAP’s). Use National Stress Awareness month in April or World Mental Day in October, to help kickstart your events. There are plenty of specialists that can give advice on how to run these and more importantly what to include. Invite keynote speakers and wellness experts to give advice and insights on how to move forward in this area. 

Offer Employee Assistance Programs 

EAP’s can take the form of counseling, referrals, or follow up services. By offering access to free therapy for both mental and behavioral conditions can help offset concerns about costs for acute situations. By encouraging employees to take advantage of these services, will help foster a culture of prevention rather than cure. 

Mental health, now more than ever, needs to be protected and supported. By destigmatizing mental health challenges, especially in the workplace, will help to foster a culture of trust, compassion and honesty, and surely we’re all here for that?!