Top Ten Tips... Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace
For many of us, work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend a large amount of time, where we get our income and often where make our friends. Having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general wellbeing.
Good mental health and good management go hand in hand and this Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) we wanted to share our Top Ten Tips for supporting mental health in the workplace...
1. Create an open, honest workplace culture
Thankfully, awareness of mental health is increasing, but we still face a world where people with mental health problems may face discrimination – especially in the workplace. A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation showed that fear of discrimination and feelings of shame were among the top reasons people gave for not telling their colleagues about their mental health problems. By creating a workplace culture where people can be themselves, openly and honestly, you will be making it easier for people to speak up about their mental health without fear.
2. Lead by example
Your colleagues will be more likely to prioritise their self-care if they see you leading by example. Change doesn’t happen overnight and if your goal is to create a culture of understanding, then it needs to start at the top. Are you doing everything you can to manage your own mental health? It can be hard to hear difficult and upsetting things, so if you are encouraging your employees to talk to you when they are struggling, make sure you are in the right place to listen without showing signs of surprise or judgement. By taking care of yourself you are creating space to take care of others.
3. Know the law
Did you know there are a wide range of legal rights that protect mental health at work? As a manager or employer, it’s vital that you understand the law and have workplace policies in place that reflect this. Most people with long-term, ongoing mental health problems meet the definition of disability according to the Equality Act (2010) in England, Scotland and Wales and this means they are protected from discrimination and harassment and are entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their work.
4. Encourage work/life balance
The majority of people spend most of their lives at work and balancing this with families, hobbies, holidays and commitments can lead to added stress. Some employees might feel torn between work and home, particularly now technology means we’re more easily contactable than ever before. By encouraging your staff to get their work/life balance right you are helping protect them from potentially burning out.
5. Communicate with regular check-ins
It doesn’t matter how you choose to communicate with your team but it is important that you make a commitment to celebrate open, honest conversations. If you have an open-door policy, and encourage all managers to do the same, then your team will know they can come to you for any guidance and support they may need. Furthermore, if you have any colleagues with ongoing mental health concerns then you can use regular check-ins, even informal ones, to make sure they have everything they need. You can also offer the chance to discuss their mental health at longer, in-depth reviews and meetings if needed.
6. Offer mental health awareness training
Offering mental health awareness training will enable your managers, and the team as a whole, to help the people around them. Investing in training, whether delivered internally or from mental health experts, will help them to spot the early signs of a mental health condition. Early access to help and support may make all the difference in helping your colleagues’ recovery. Make sure you are also following up on any training to ensure everyone has understood the main principles. If the whole team took part in the training, why not also introduce mental health mentoring or peer-to-peer support?
7. Encourage health and fitness
Good employers should encourage and inspire their employees to work hard but to relax and protect their mental health too. Regular exercise is known to help improve mental health, so why not support initiatives which encourage physical activities, such as a lunch time walking group? A diet that is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health and it can be hard to keep up a healthy pattern of eating at work. Make sure your staff are taking adequate break times and if you have a communal area, you can make sure there is a steady supply of fruit and healthy snacks.
8. Help colleagues connect
Friends really do help make the word go around and this is true in our professional lives as well as at home. Encouraging meaningful relationships at work means there are people on hand who care and can spot the signs of depression, anxiety and stress and perhaps provide a much-needed boost or advice. Helping build connections within your team could be as simple as arranging a face-to-face meeting instead of sending an email or creating a mentoring programme for new colleagues.
9. Address discrimination and inclusivity
Hopefully your employees will feel comfortable enough to report any discrimination or harassment they face, or have witnessed, and know that it will be treated with due care and compassion. Your team should know that mental health discrimination is unacceptable and will be treated the same as discrimination in relation to other protected characteristics such as race, gender or sexual orientation. As well as this, you can include mental health in any diversity and inclusion strategies you may introduce going forward.
10. Lead through change
Throughout the last two years, the world of work has changed dramatically and many employers have found the need to restructure or change staff working conditions or contracts. Changes such as this can be a huge challenge for staff mental health and you can balance the more stressful aspects by ensuring decisions are communicated effectively. Give everyone as much time as possible to digest any new changes and make sure that support is made available, either within the workplace or via external programmes.
- Delivering a great training session
- Effective staff development through mentoring
- Using apprenticeships to grow your own talent
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