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10 May 2023
by Tim Dunn

Why employee mental health needs are not black and white

Implementing a mental health strategy for employees pays dividends – but it has to be the right support

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Mental health is not black and white and there is no one-size-fits-all mental health policy that can meet the mental health needs of every employee.

People are complex. Everyone manages their workloads and balances their personal lives differently. People prefer different methods of communication and showcase their strengths in different ways. 

That is why it is important for business leaders to recognise that no two people are the same and that it is vitally important all employees have access to different types of support when they are worried about their mental health. 

Mental health costs the UK economy more than £70m a year, with 17 million work days lost in 2022 due to stress, anxiety and depression.

Implementing mental health support for employees pays dividends, increases productivity and employee retention and plays a huge role in whole-person wellbeing – including emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. 

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their employees at work and provide a safe working environment. This may or may not specifically cover workers’ mental health, but outlining a business’s mental health policy is an important first step to promoting workplace mental health and reducing the stigma of mental illness at work. 

For businesses to implement mental health support that is credible and that their employees believe in, it is important for business 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.

Prevention is key

Conversations can help to identify underlying issues and concerns that your employees have about their mental health and help you to gain a greater understanding of the support they may need.

Everyone within an organisation is responsible for creating a caring culture. Encourage teams to stay connected and host regular check-ins that are conversational and relaxed. This can help team leaders to notice when someone is feeling overstretched at work and help them manage their workload and work/life balance.

Once the conversation has started with an employee about mental health, it’s essential to keep it going. One solution may be to put a buddy system in place, offering employees access to those who have received mental health training or have relevant experience and can act as a friend, mentor or guide. 

Be flexible in your 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 can help if managers are as flexible as possible to help keep the person at work.

Consider modifications to their job role, such as adjusting hours, workload, tactics, breaks or perhaps providing a mentor.

Encourage self-care

Workplace mental health care is important. However, individuals also need to take steps to look after their own mental health. Here are some top tips to help employees with self-care.

  • Prioritise tasks
  • Set yourself reasonable deadlines
  • Leave on time and take regular breaks
  • Exercise
  • Stay hydrated and eat well
  • Provide space for strength-based learning
  • Focus on what you love about your job
  • Think about what type of person you want to be at work

Ensure employees know how to find help

If you have one, signpost people to a mental health first aider within your organisation or an employee assistance programme. Perhaps look to integrate a page on your intranet or employee communications system about how people can access outside support – such as NHS Mental Health and Samaritans.

Ensure all employees are aware of the support available. Putting practical and easy-to-understand steps in place will ensure that everyone knows who they can contact.

Business leaders should not try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to creating a mental health policy that works for their busy management leaders and busy employees. Instead, shift your focus to creating a workplace culture that is adaptable, open and considerate of the different types of help employees may need. 

Employers who take mental health and wellbeing seriously send out a clear message about the organisation’s values and show that they care, respect and support their employees. 

Hear more from this specialist service provider

Meet and talk to them at REBA Wellbeing Congress on 22 June. They're keen to hear about your strategy and can help your focus on embedding employee experience and wellbeing at the heart of reward and benefits decisions.

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