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Laura Farnsworth

A guide to implementing positive mental health in the workplace

We all have mental health. Moving up and down a spectrum from good to poor, it’s affected by a range of factors both in and outside of work. For employers, the question is, what are you going to do about it, to ensure you have a supportive culture that allows staff to be open about their problems?

Here are some useful hints and tips for ways in which you can address the issue.

Break the stigma

Recent research from the Priory Group found that over 70% of those spoken to would worry about telling their employer about a mental health condition, for fear of the response.

Clearly demonstrating a continuing taboo, you also get the sense that people may feel their employers will question their ability if they disclose a mental health condition – a somewhat difficult attitude to dispel.

Looking to the future, we really do need to break down the stigma so that employees feel able to open up and get the support they need.

State your intentions

Making everyone aware of the intention to support mental health will help to normalise the subject and encourage more openness from employees.

Identify areas of the workplace that could be directly linked to the occurrence of poor mental health. Gathering information on staff turnover, sickness absence and performance can be a good starting point.

Involve staff in the process. Arranging team meetings or employee surveys are great ways of finding out what your staff thinks the business does well, and what could be improved on.

In smaller businesses, like ours, team heads could simply speak to staff on a one-to-one basis.

Focus on making improvements

Once you’ve made your intentions clear, you may look to develop a wellbeing policy. Or, review existing mental health policies, ensuring everyone knows where to go for support and further information when needed.

Buddy systems also provide a great way of creating a culture that encourages staff to talk about their mental health. Sharing stresses or discussing any concerns about workloads can really help people to feel better about themselves and their roles.

Think of your key messages and how you can incorporate these in practice. You may, for example, task senior managers to act as role models, who can encourage healthy behaviours, such as eating lunch away from their desk.

We recently set up a lunchtime walking club which is proving really popular in helping our ‘walker workers’ to clear their heads, taking in some fresh air and fun, before getting back to it.

While small businesses may not have formal policies for every situation, there’s a lot that can be done to create a positive culture and approach to mental health that everyone can benefit from.

Do you understand what good mental health is? Next up, we’ll be posting our mental health quiz, which will enable you to find out more. Watch this space.

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