More than 11 million UK working adults have taken time off work for poor mental wellbeing, costing businesses an estimated 40 million working days each year, according to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health. Despite this, only 38% of them felt comfortable being honest about it to their employer, while others cite physical health issues or simply take annual leave to avoid the conversation all together.
It’s extremely important to foster a culture of openness and compassion.
In addition to this, the survey also revealed that 71% of employers believe there’s still a stigma around discussing mental health in the workplace.
So, what can employers do to boost mental wellbeing at work?
With greater transparency and better support, employees would feel more comfortable coming forward about their mental health – but rolling out effective measures can be hard.
In this article, we’ll draw on examples of measures we have encouraged at Benenden Health as part of our overall health and wellbeing strategy in 2019-2020 to support the mental wellbeing of our employees.
1. Urge your team to take time out for self-reflection and to build a wellness action plan
This will enable employees to elaborate on how they’re feeling and help them consider how their managers and colleagues can assist when they’re not at their best.
2. Appoint mental health first aiders, who are trained to talk about mental wellbeing
They can intervene in a crisis and are highly approachable to colleagues. We recommend employing mental health first aiders that are a reflection of your workplace demographic.
In the first 18 months of Benenden Health introducing them, we saw them help out 20 cases of colleagues whose mental wellbeing was not in a good place.
3. Take time to train your managers to spot signs of poor mental wellbeing
This step is crucial in organisational transformation, not only does this take the strain off mental health first aiders, it instills the confidence in managers to be able to talk to their employees. In turn, employees feel more relaxed to approach their managers if, and when, they need to have a chat.
4. Provide resilience training to better equip your workforce to deal with changes
It does pay off to provide your employees the emotional toolkit they need to handle changes to working patterns, responsibilities and the wider social-economic environment.
We’ve found this especially beneficial during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many colleagues finding that it has helped them with tools and strategies to deal with life stresses outside of the workplace too.
5. Ensure job satisfaction, as it plays a large role in an employee’s mental wellbeing
Whether that’s taking time to pave a proper career plan and regular reviews on their performance, or as simple as introducing appreciation rituals like ‘shout-out Fridays’, it helps to make employees feel valued and appreciated.
6. Don’t let physical health take a backseat
We all know the undeniable link between physical and mental health. Take steps to ensure measures are in place to facilitate exercise and better sleep.
Encouraging team-led initiatives introduces friendly competition, making exercising fun and nurturing teamwork.
Each step is small and progressive, but combined, they can make a larger impact
It’s extremely important to foster a culture of openness and compassion, without which the above suggestions might not work. Additionally, looking at healthcare benefits for employees lets your workforce know you’re taking their mental wellbeing seriously.
Covid-19 has shown that flexible working can be beneficial and potentially something that is widely adopted by companies going forward. With the collective acceptance of tough times, it has opened up conversations around mental wellbeing – let’s continue to talk about it, and nurture a culture of positive mental wellbeing.