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05 Dec 2023
by Shamira Graham

How to create a health-supportive culture that keeps people in work

Occupational health has a key role in not only getting the long-term sick back to work but also in keeping employees healthy

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In October this year, the government’s consultation on occupational health services for businesses closed. The consultation has many aims, but a main one is to look at how to eradicate long-term sickness and get people back into work.

Only 45% of employees have access to occupational health services through their job, and musculoskeletal and mental health conditions are the two biggest drivers of staff absences and economic inactivity in the UK.

Giving employees the support they need to stay in work has many benefits, as continuing to work gives people a sense of purpose and can lead to quicker recovery. For businesses, it means retaining an individual within the workforce, supporting higher productivity.

The government’s consultation looks at occupational health in two parts:

Occupational Health: Working Better – which proposes to increase employer use of occupational health services through a national health at work standard to provide a baseline for quality provision and includes guidance and best practice sharing for employers and accreditation.

Tax incentives for Occupational Health – which seeks views on providing further support through expanding the Benefit in Kind exemption for medical benefits, to encourage greater employer provision of occupational health services.

OneBright supports any government proposals that help more people to stay fit and well, and that supports businesses to provide the right care for employees.

While it will be some time before the results of the consultation are made public, there are initiatives that businesses can look to implement that will help to support employee mental health and keep people in work, as well as help those who have been off sick back into work .

Here are three things your business can implement to support your workforce’s mental health.

1. Leadership training

Line managers and business leaders often feel uncomfortable starting a conversation about mental health or worry about giving the ‘wrong’ response if someone discloses mental health issues to them. Providing training for line managers and those responsible for others’ welfare can be invaluable. Mental health training for line managers could include: 

  • Spotting the signs – How to spot behavioural changes and symptoms if an employee suffers from mental health issues. 
  • Communication skills – How to talk about it and what words are best to use/avoid. 
  • Workplace adjustments and return to work – training for managers to help people stay at work where possible or integrate individuals back into the team for an effective and successful return to work.

2. Workplace mental health strategy and policy

When companies recognise the importance of mental health in the workplace and invest in comprehensive mental health programmes and policies, businesses reap the financial and wellbeing benefits of a more supportive and productive work environment.

The first step businesses can take is to conduct a mental health audit with the guidance of a mental health consultant. A mental health audit provides a customised workforce survey and review, ranging from a quick check on organisational wellbeing to a detailed screening of staff mental health.

From there, an audit can direct and inform a mental health policy and strategy under the recommendations of a mental health expert. 

3. Create a supportive workplace culture

A positive work environment can improve peoples’ mental health, and people who feel supported by their employer and co-workers are less likely to experience depression, stress and anxiety.

Foster a supportive company culture at all levels – encouraging open communication, providing support for mental health, and creating safe spaces for employees to discuss mental health concerns.

Re-evaluate workplace norms and support individuals to balance work and personal responsibilities.

Provide access to mental health resources: Do your employees know where, or who, to turn to during times of increased mental pressure, such as a breavement or  receiving a life-changing diagnosis? Are they easily accessible resources communicated to everyone within the company? 

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In partnership with Onebright Mental Health

Onebright is a personalised on-demand mental healthcare company.

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