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23 Jan 2023
by Clare Price

5 steps to an effective workforce mental wellbeing policy

Mental ill health can have a detrimental effect on employee productivity and happiness, which only spells bad news for everyone

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The workforce is changing. From the Great Resignation to quiet quitting, people have left their jobs to explore healthier, more balanced and meaningful work options. They are seeking more significant purpose and support in their work lives.

Employee mental health remains a high priority in just about every organisation’s strategic plan, and organisations taking the lead are offering mental health benefits like mental health training for managers and business leaders, optional funded therapy sessions, and programmes for teams to help build resilience. 

The average person spends nearly one-third of their life at work, so the need to have the right workplace policies and to train managers and leaders in mental health skills is essential for a resilient, engaged and loyal workforce.

A mental health policy can help define the overall vision of your company’s approach to mental health while also providing benchmarks for preventing and treating mental disorders and promoting mental health in your workplace.

How a workplace mental health policy can help people

Mental ill health can have a detrimental effect on employee productivity, collaboration and happiness, which only spells bad news for your employees and business.

Research by Public Health England shows the most vulnerable people with mental health conditions are more likely to work in precarious roles with part-time or temporary hours, high turnover, and low pay. This highlights the importance of implementing a comprehensive workplace mental health policy that doesn’t simply tick boxes, but helps establish your business as one that sees mental health issues as being as important as physical wellbeing.

The importance of keeping people in work

The public health system puts significant resources into keeping people in work, with NHS England investing £10 million in 2018 to support up to 20,000 people with mental health issues to maintain or gain employment.

When society fails to acknowledge that at least one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health condition during their lives, the human and economic cost of isolation and more serious mental health conditions grows.

Since maintaining a working life is essential in promoting mental health, keeping people linked to work is a significant focus for the mental health profession.

How to develop mental health policies

Mental health policies can be explicitly designed to support employees struggling with mental conditions to remain in work – or return to it. Through clinically led mental health training, managers and business leaders are better equipped to have conversations that are not always easy but should not be avoided. The focus should be placed on what can be done to support the employee’s mental wellbeing – not on diagnosing ‘illness.’

No policy will be perfect and people struggling with mental health can often react unexpectedly, but having guidelines to refer to can still be helpful.

1. Mental health training for managers

For businesses looking to create their first mental health policy this year, consider bringing in occupational mental healthcare services. While managers should be confident enough to talk to their employees, they are not professionals. Consider everything from obtaining training for managers from professionals to providing talk therapy directly to employees.

Ultimately, this support for employees will help the workplace as much as the individual employees. Those struggling with their mental health can disrupt others – and if they leave employment, they can take lots of experience and knowledge with them.

2. Lead from the top

For businesses to implement mental health support that is credible and that employees believe in, it is important for leaders to champion and endorse it. By leading from the top and talking about their mental health, business leaders and managers can cement a caring and trusting culture that encourages colleagues to speak out and seek help when required.

3. Encourage conversations

Conversations can help to identify underlying issues and concerns that employees have about their mental health and help you to gain a greater understanding of the support they may need. Encourage teams to stay connected and host regular check-ins that are conversational and relaxed, giving employees the opportunity to talk about their work/life balance and anything that they may be finding challenging. This can help team leaders notice when someone is feeling overstretched at work and help them to manage their workload and work/life balance.

4. Take a flexible approach

Your employees will all have different ways of working and dealing with challenges. If an employee feels like they aren’t coping with their workload, are stressed or burned out and need changes to their work or role, it helps if managers are as flexible as possible. Look at adjusting hours, workload, tactics, breaks, or perhaps providing an employee with a mentor.

5. Encourage self-care

Mental healthcare inside the workplace is important; however, it is also important that individuals take active steps to look after their own mental health too.

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In partnership with Onebright

Onebright is a personalised on-demand mental healthcare company.

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