How to communicate about mental health issues with your workforce

Mental health in the workplace is a challenge that is commonplace in many organisations and some have recognised this and have it on their agenda for the next twelve months. However, communicating and addressing these effectively are a concern due to the sensitive nature of the issues. 

The stigma around mental health is slowly being addressed, but organisations need to be doing more to remove the barriers and create an environment that encourages their employees to open up.

Employers should deliver clear messages to the workforce that mental health and wellbeing matters. Leaders and managers should be comfortable sending these messages and show their commitment to mental health and wellbeing by raising awareness and actively supporting campaigns. For example, the importance of taking a lunch break, going for a walk or working sensible hours could all contribute toward promoting healthy behaviour in the workplace, which in turn will support good mental health.

In order to have a sufficient impact, all levels of management should be encouraged to tell their own stories. This is a powerful approach and their stories will resonate, which in turn will make their employees feel more confident and at ease when sharing their own experiences.  

Work with national events

Organisations can collaborate with national programs such as the ‘Mental Health Awareness’ week, held in May or the ‘World Mental Health Day’ in October. Topics around mental health can be introduced through staff surveys, quarterly updates or reviewing absence reports - all great ways to start the conversation.  

Organisations can consider and prepare for the possible effects of workplace stress in advance of their busiest times of the year and raise these issues ahead of time. This could be via internal communications in a digital format by using blogs, intranet pages or webinars. Even using tried and tested methods such as posters, newsletters and staff notice boards can help promote topics and events such as guest speakers, seminars and workshops.  

Train line managers to recognise potential problems

A particular focus should be to train line managers, as they are often on the front line between any organisation and its employees. They are the people within the business who know their employees on a personal level and will normally be the first to recognise when they are not themselves.

Managers need to be confident in instigating the conversation, encourage openness within the team, be well equipped to signpost the available pathways for support and provide guidance to the team on how to support fellow colleagues who may be dealing with a mental health condition.  

We all know that an employee who has broken their leg playing football on a Sunday will struggle to move around the office and perform more physical tasks, but when it comes to a mental health condition, do we know what support is needed and what to do?  

Laura Matthews is workplace health consultant at Barnett Waddingham.

This article was provided by Barnett Waddingham.


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