Protecting employee mental health is becoming a key focus for HR departments across the UK. According to a report from Mind, work-related mental ill-health costs businesses up to £26 billion each year. It’s a stark fact that shows how focusing on mental wellbeing protects your bottom line as well as your company culture.
If you want to start building a workplace that fosters healthy and productive minds in 2020, follow these steps:
Unmanageable stress is the leading cause of mental health-related absence, according to Mind. Stress is a highly personal experience, but it is also driven by environment. If we work in an environment with lots of pressure and not much support, stress is more likely to strike employees down – which is why it is so important to get the balance right.
Start your journey by downloading the Health and Safety Executive’s stress risk assessment template. This can help you to start thinking about how factors like demands, relationships and change can affect how stress builds up in workplaces.
Stress isn’t just a problem in and of itself – episodes of high stress can heighten the risk of developing other physical and mental illnesses, from depression to heart disease.
Now you understand the stress profile of your company and employees, it is time to work on reducing this.
Training managers so they can communicate more positively could be a great first step, since calm and understanding communication styles can make the stress burden more manageable for everyone.
Help your workers to manage their bodies and minds with quiet time, regular exercise and quick breaks throughout the day. You may be positively surprised by how much more productive they become.
You’ve assessed the risk posed by stress and taken steps to reduce the burden. Next, focus on raising awareness. Many people still don’t understand mental health conditions because decades of stigma have closed down conversations – so opening them up can really help.
Speakers Corner have a range of health and wellbeing speakers, many of whom focus on mental health. Their personal stories and knowledge could really help a workforce relate to those who are suffering, which can in turn improve the culture surrounding mental health in your organisation. It is becoming a popular way to commemorate times such as World Mental Health Day in October and Stress Awareness Month in April.
Now your workplace community is protected by a positive culture, your people won’t be as at-risk. Nonetheless, you should still create networks to help those who are suffering – from bereavement to biology, there are many reasons why people develop mental health conditions.
One of the most important ways to support staff in crisis is by training someone in the office to provide emergency support. MHFA England trains mental health first aiders – if you want to help employees but feel out of your depth, these courses provide a great starting point.
Once all this infrastructure is in place, try to start conversations around mental health to break down stigma in the workplace. In the very best-performing organisations, lines of communication are open and long-term mental health problems are accounted for just like other disabilities.