Mentally healthy workplaces
Mentally healthy workplaces
Smart employers know that organisations
are only as strong as their people – they
depend on having a healthy and productive
Why you should be supporting staff mental health
Simple, inexpensive measures to
support staff mental health and
• increase productivity, efficiency
• increase profits and reduce
• improve staff morale and
• reduce sickness absence,
presenteeism and staff turnover
• enhance your reputation as an
• help to honour your duty of care
as an employer.
Smart employers know that organisations are only as strong as their people – they depend on having a healthy and productive workforce.
They also know that people perform better when they feel able to put everything into their job and when they are confident, motivated and completely focused on doing that. Good mental health underpins this.
By positively managing and supporting employees’ mental wellbeing, employers can ensure that staff perform to their potential – and this allows the organisation to achieve peak performance.
Right now 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. This can stop people performing at their best.
How to create a mentally healthy workplace
Our recommended approach
The business case
• Positively managing mental health underpins good employee engagement and benefits everyone – employees, employers and the bottom line.
• If you look after your employees’ mental wellbeing, then levels of engagement will rise and so will staff morale and loyalty, innovation, productivity and profits.
The strong relationship between levels of staff wellbeing and motivation and business performance is often called employee engagement. Increasing engagement is a major priority for UK leaders because engaged employees have been shown again and again to deliver improved business performance.
The twin goals of increasing employee engagement and creating a mentally healthy workplace are interdependent. Fundamental to both is the need for strong leadership and a positive, transparent and clear organisational culture which values staff. The Deloitte Millennials Survey 2016 is a strong evidence-base for this.
Employers – especially line managers – need to take the first step by sending a signal that staff mental health is valued and that people can feel confident that disclosure will lead to support, not discrimination.
We recommend employers adopt a three-pronged strategy which includes:
1. Promoting wellbeing for all staff.
2. Tackling the work-related causes of mental health problems.
3. Supporting staff who are experiencing a mental health problem.
1. Promoting wellbeing
Creating a positive workplace culture
Having an open dialogue
Effective management and open dialogue are fundamental to unlocking the potential of staff, and reducing uncertainty and preventing stress.
Having an effective, empowered employee voice is integral to this relationship.
Promoting an inclusive workplace culture
A workplace culture where employees feel able to voice ideas and are listened to, both about how they do their job and in broader decision-making about the organisation’s direction of travel, is also a key driver of employee engagement. This is because employees feel more committed to the organisation’s goals when they feel that their work is meaningful and valued.1
1 The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016
Normalising mental wellbeing at work
Raising awareness and promoting discussion of mental health and wellbeing also drives engagement, helps to overcome prejudice and means that employees will be more likely to disclose issues sooner.
Promoting a good work/life balance
Encouraging a good work/life balance, supporting flexible working practices, and promoting positive working relationships and social activities are also important.
Investing in these approaches and promoting them to staff sends out a clear message to staff that their mental health is valued by the organisation.
2. Tackling the causes
Identifying workplace triggers
Considering how much time we spend at work, it’s not surprising it can affect our mental health. The way that managers behave is often key in shaping whether being at work has a positive or a negative impact on staff.
Effective managers help employees
to manage their workloads, create opportunities for coaching and learning, and promote a culture of open dialogue – all of which help to boost staff mental wellbeing and employee engagement levels.
Essential manager behaviours
Research on engagement has identified some essential manager behaviours that help employees to feel valued and well supported to do their job, including:
• offering clarity
• showing appreciation of employees’ effort and contribution
• treating people as individuals and flexing your managerial style to suit their needs
• ensuring that work is organised efficiently and effectively.
Spotting the signs
Training managers to recognise the early signs of mental health problems and ensuring they are able to effectively support staff will help maintain employee wellbeing.
Managers should know the people in their team and may notice changes in them. However, it's important to remember everyone's experience of a mental health problem is different and there may be no outward sign - this is why it's so important to create an environment where people can be open.
You should never make assumptions about people's mental health, but clues might include:
• changes in people's behaviour or mood, or how they interact with colleagues
• changes in their work output, motivation levels and focus
• struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems
• appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they previously enjoyed
• changes in eating habits, appetite and increased smoking and drinking.
Managers can also spot the signs by being alert to the potential workplace triggers, such as:
• long hours and no breaks
• unrealistic expectations or deadlines
• unmanageable workloads or lack of control over work
• negative relationships or poor communication
• poor managerial support
• job insecurity or change management
• high-risk roles
• lone working.
Checking-in with staff
Regular supervisions or one-to-one meetings are crucial to building trust and giving employees a chance to raise issues at an early stage. Providing mentoring or on-the-job coaching also helps to develop this relationship.
Ensuring the physical work environment is appropriate and and publicising available support pathways, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or occupational health (OH) can also help tackle the work-related causes of mental health problems.
Routinely taking stock of staff wellbeing
Carrying out an assessment of your workplace can give a clear picture of the state of the organisation as a whole, enabling you to understand what factors affect staff mental health in your workplace and what needs to be done to make improvements.
You can also do this at a team or department level by asking people for their thoughts on what the team does well to promote good mental health and how this can be built upon. This could be followed by asking people to share what is currently impacting negatively on their mental wellbeing in the workplace so you can explore solutions.
How often do you assess staff wellbeing in your organisation?
- Every few years
- Once a year
- At least twice a year
3. Supporting staff experiencing a mental health problem
Providing appropriate support
Promoting wellbeing and tackling the work-related causes of mental health problems should create an environment where staff feel confident to talk to their manager if they are experiencing a mental health problem, whether it's work-related stress, emotional distress related to a life event or if they are living with a mental health condition.
However, there may be times when a manager may need to broach the issue.
If mental health problems are suspected or disclosed, the first step is to establish honest, open communication with the employee, and this should be maintained if people take time off for sickness absence. If possible, the frequency of contact should be agreed before someone takes time off.
How you respond to an employee experiencing a mental health problem
This is fundamental test of your organisation’s values. Trust and integrity are key drivers of engagement – employees need to see that the organisation lives its values and does what it says it will in terms of treating its people well.
But standing by people when they experience problems is not only about keeping hold of a valuable staff member – it also sends a message about your organisation’s values to staff and external audiences. Supportive organisations find they reap the benefits in terms of loyalty and commitment from all staff.
The biggest wave of relief floods over me. Finally, the perfect response; no weird looks, no hesitation or awkward questions, no difficult silence. Just a willingness to support me at work.
Everyone’s experience of a mental health problem is different, so managers should be supported to work with staff to develop a personal action plan which identifies triggers and what support the employee needs.
Ensure policies are clear and services are well publicised
Clear policies on workplace adjustments and phased returns to work are crucial for reducing the length of mental health related sickness absence.
If people are being redeployed or made redundant then this can have a significant impact on their mental wellbeing. People being redeployed will need to be supported through the process and properly inducted into their new role. Redundancy polices should consider mental health aftercare for staff and signposting to appropriate services.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), occupational health or psychological therapies can also contribute to a comprehensive support package for staff. Small businesses can access the free Health for Work Adviceline service provided by NHS occupational health services.
To get started, we recommend you consider your current approach to ensuring a healthy workplace with our checklists.
If you work in HR or are on the senior management team:
- How are mental health and stress talked about in your workplace?
- What policies for managing mental health does your organisation have?
- Does your organisation offer flexible working practices?
- Does your organisation offer formal wellbeing support?
- Does your organisation provide stress management training to line managers?
- Does your organisation provide stress coaching to individuals?
- Does your organisation prioritise learning and development among its staff?
- Does your organisation run an annual staff satisfaction survey? And if so, does it ask about mental wellbeing in the workplace?
- How does your organisation manage change and redundancy processes?
- How well do you involve staff in making decisions about internal changes?
- How do you look after your own mental wellbeing at work?
If you’re a line manager:
How are mental health and stress talked about in your team?
What policies for managing mental health does your organisation have?
Do you regularly ask your staff about their wellbeing?
Do your staff have a good work/life balance?
Do you have regular catch-ups or one-to-ones with your staff?
Do you communicate staff responsibilities and expectations clearly?
How do you help your staff to effectively manage their workloads?
Do you support your staff with personal development?
Do you praise staff and acknowledge their efforts?
Do you feel equipped to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem?
How do you look after your own mental wellbeing at work?
Reading this guide might be the start of your journey towards better mental health in your workplace. You may have already made some progress and are looking to do more. Whichever stage you are at, we can help.
Our aim is to support a million people to stay well and have good mental health at work. In order to help organisations to create mentally healthy workplaces for their employees, we are launching our Workplace Wellbeing Index.
Mind's Workplace Wellbeing Index
The Workplace Wellbeing Index is our benchmark of best policy and practice, designed to celebrate the good work organisations are doing to support the mental wellbeing of employees, and provide the guidance needed to do more.
Signing up to the Index is the first step of your commitment to a better way of working - for the success and productivity of your organisation as a whole and for each person you employ. By positively managing and supporting employees’ mental wellbeing, employers can ensure that staff perform to their potential – and this allows the business to achieve peak performance.
Putting mental health front and centre of your agenda will benefit your bottom line, but most importantly, it’s the right thing to do for your employees.
Register your interest in the Workplace Wellbeing Index to find out more.