How to promote mental well-being in the workplace

An annual statistic from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that for the 2020/2021 year, 50% of all work-related ill health cases were due to stress, depression or anxiety. In the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is more important than ever that employers recognise the impact poor mental health can have on their staff and that they take steps to promote positive mental health at work. Read this blog to learn more about the steps you can take to promote mental health in the workplace.

Understanding mental health

It is unsurprising that staff members who are physically and mentally healthy are generally more productive and engage better in the workplace.

Unfortunately, due to the stigma around mental health, employers often don’t feel comfortable speaking to staff about their mental health. Similarly, staff members may not feel comfortable speaking to their colleagues or supervisors if they need help because their mental health is poor. 

Poor mental health is common and understanding it can make all the difference to businesses and their employees. A key step is to create an encouraging environment where awareness about mental health is increased and staff feel comfortable talking about their own mental health. 

What steps can employers take to promote mental well-being?

While poor mental health can be related to (or caused by) problems inside or outside the workplace, it is crucial that employers take proactive steps toward promoting the mental health and well-being of their staff. Some of these steps include:

Understanding the Equality Act 2010

Employers need to take into account the Equality Act 2010, which protects staff from being discriminated against based on their ‘protected characteristics’ (eg age, sex, and disability). 

Under the law, someone is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability of a staff member to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Staff with a disability are entitled to reasonable adjustments to help them perform their job. Reasonable adjustments are changes made by employers, to remove barriers to a staff member doing their job due to the effects of their mental health. 

For more information, read Disability and reasonable adjustments.

Raising awareness and increasing understanding about mental health

Employers need to understand what exactly poor mental health is and the risks associated with mental health issues that may affect staff (eg work-related stress). Doing so will help employers plan the best strategy for their workplace.

Employers should consider educating staff on mental health. Including by:

  • training managers and management teams on how to deal with mental health issues
  • appointing mental health first-aiders
  • ensuring staff are provided with mental health awareness information (eg details of available support)

To ensure staff feel comfortable and able to discuss their concerns, employers should encourage open conversation about mental health. Often those diagnosed with mental health conditions don’t inform their employers and continue to come to work even if they’re unwell and would benefit from time off. 

Openly speaking about mental health in the workplace can also help change outdated perceptions and the stigma around mental health. 

Adopt well-being initiatives

Employers should consider adopting reasonable well-being initiatives and informing staff of their possible benefits. Examples of such initiatives include providing:

  • employee assistance services
  • workplace sports clubs/classes (eg running clubs or yoga classes)
  • subsidising gym memberships
  • meditation sessions
  • lunch tokens 

Creating tailored policies

While most workplaces will have a written Health and safety policy, employers may consider creating a specific mental health policy. This is an internal document outlining a business’ approach to mental health and will often set out how the business:

  • identifies issues and works with staff to resolve them
  • supports all staff faced with mental health issues
  • maintains a healthy environment that staff feel comfortable and safe in

Creating a flexible working environment

Employers should consider creating a flexible working environment, for example by:

Keeping in touch with staff

Employers should make sure managers keep in touch with their team, especially where hybrid working has been adopted or staff are working remotely. Where full teams are less likely to be at work together on a daily basis, it is important that everyone stays connected to ensure staff members are supported and feel able to raise any concerns they may have.

Reviewing workloads regularly

Employers should regularly review the work carried out by staff, including their working hours and the volume of work they are undertaking. Doing this can help identify any workers that have too heavy a workload and potentially reduce the risk of burnout and/or work-related stress early on.

 

The steps outlined above are only some of the ways employers can help promote mental well-being. Exactly what is feasible will depend on a variety of factors, including the size and industry of the employer. However, employers must remember that they have to protect the health and safety of their staff, and that this extends to staff mental health. Ask a lawyer if you have any questions or concerns about mental health in the workplace.

 

Rebecca Neumann
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