When it comes to mental wellbeing in the workplace, stigma remains the single greatest barrier to ensuring employees receive the help and support they simply don’t feel able to talk to their employers about.
With mental health problems affecting one in six British workers each year and mental health being the leading cause of sickness absence it is not surprising that employers are starting to look more closely at the crucial role they play in supporting the wellbeing of their staff.
In January 2017 the government conducted an independent review into how employers can better support all employees, including those with poor mental health or wellbeing, to remain in and thrive at work.
The report made key recommendations for all employers to adopt six 'mental health core standards' that lay the basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health.
By adopting these standards, the review suggests that all organisations, whatever their size, will be:
• be better equipped with the awareness and tools to address and prevent mental ill-health which is caused or worsened by work
• equipped to support people with a mental health condition to thrive, from recruitment and throughout the organisation
• aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence caused by mental ill health
Employers should prioritise and promote good mental health as well as providing support when an issue emerges. The Mental Health at Work Commitment provides a framework to help organisations put in place the key actions needed to support better mental health outcomes for employees, and links to practical tools to help implement those standards.
The key messages from the framework are as follows:
Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity. Employers and managers should be alert to the early signs of stress and mental ill health and know how to respond. Early intervention can help prevent issues from escalating.
Proactively ensure work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes. Research shows that unmanageable workloads are the main cause of work-related stress. Providing meaningful work with realistic timescales will help to manage the risk of work-related stress. Promoting work-life balance alongside more flexible working arrangements. Long-hours working is not a sustainable way of operating and will take its toll on people. An appropriate balance between work and personal life means people remain refreshed and productive.
Promote an open culture around mental health. Promoting awareness and educating the whole workforce about mental health can help to reduce the stigma and replace common myths with facts.
Increase organisational confidence and capability. Good people management can help manage and prevent stress which can be linked to common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. It is also important that line managers have the knowledge and confidence to signpost an employee to more expert sources of support as and when necessary
Increase organisational confidence and capability. All staff should be prepared for effective mental health conversations and signposting where necessary. Line managers should be trained in all aspects of work placed mental health and built roles as standard.
Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
Paying attention to workplace mental health has never been more important but getting started is daunting. There are plenty of resources available that makes navigating work-placed mental health much easier.