Creating a Mental Health StrategyPosted in : HR Updates on 7 May 2021
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 10 to 16 May 2021. This is a time when many employers will raise awareness of mental health in the workplace and run some initiatives to support and promote it. While this is an important campaign it is worth remembering that mental health support should extend well beyond just one week a year.
With much of people’s time spent at work, the workplace can significantly impact our mental health and wellbeing, both positively and negatively. Without the right culture in place, absence levels are likely to rise while productivity falls, neither of which will help businesses succeed. On the other hand, a mentally healthy workplace is likely to create a culture where staff are more engaged leading to improved performance, productivity and quality.
The starting point for creating an environment that promotes mental health is the creation of a mental health and wellbeing strategy which links to the corporate objectives of the organisation, much in the same way that health and safety objectives do. When mental health is included as a strategic business objective it sends a clear message to staff that mental health is taken seriously at the highest levels within the organisation.
The commitment of senior leaders and business owners, ongoing participation and regular communication are the key ingredients of your strategy.
Co-design of your mental health and wellbeing strategy involving workplace champions and supporters ensures that different points of view are taken into consideration. Involving a range of representatives from across the organisation and promoting different ways for staff to become active participants in the development, implementation and review of the strategy will provide greater buy-in and support.
Ongoing communication is an equally important stage of your mental health and wellbeing strategy. Staff want to know what is going on in their workplace and will be more informed and engaged as a result. Broader promotion of mental health, as well as raised awareness dispels myths and stigma and encourages openness and freedom to talk. It is important to highlight the benefits of good mental health and provide signposts to support, tools, and resources. A range of communication methods works best from lunch-time briefings to Intranet and email updates or staff noticeboards. Your champions should also play a key role in communicating and promoting your mental health and wellbeing strategy. If your champions can even share their personal stories of mental health recovery this should help others to speak up who otherwise may have been reluctant.
Encouraging senior leaders and managers to talk freely about mental health and participate in activities and events aimed at reducing stigma will also go a long way towards providing the right workplace environment.
Your strategy should also promote a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment or discrimination against those who may have a mental health condition.
Line manager training is therefore essential to empower mangers to recognise the signs of mental health issues and signpost employees to appropriate help, starting with their GP. You may even wish to appoint Mental Health First Aiders who will act as go-to colleagues for anyone who is going through some form of mental health issue.
The final stages of your mental health and wellbeing strategy will involve regular monitoring and review, soliciting feedback from staff and measuring the success and take-up of initiatives that have been rolled out.
Employees have a duty of care towards their employees, both on a physical and mental level. A workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy that is led from the top will indicate to staff, clients and stakeholders that they are valued and respected, in turn leading to better engagement levels, staff retention and the ability to attract higher calibre talent. The outcome is two-fold; happier, healthier people and improved business performance so a focus on mental health in the workplace makes sound business sense.
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.