In the workplace, as in wider society, we’re seeing a seismic shift in attitudes to mental health awareness. We’re finally talking about it and reducing the stigma. But although many of us want to help, we may find reaching out to colleagues and employees experiencing mental health problems daunting.
So how can businesses best create a strategy that offers support and inspires confidence around mental health concerns? And how can they do so while working to tight budgets and time-schedules? The joint initiative between EW Group and Champs Consulting has the solution.
Mental Health First Aid training gives participants a deep understanding of mental health issues and the tools to ensure a person experiencing problems receives the right help.
To get you in the zone, here are my six top tips on how to raise mental health awareness at work:
1. Start by identifying your in-house mental health champion(s)
I can guarantee that there will be one or more people in your organisation who have experience of mental health and are keen to establish a workplace wellbeing network. Ask them what they would like this to look like – how about yoga classes, a book club, or regular guest speakers on related topics? Welcome their ideas and make it inclusive.
2. Secure buy-in from senior leadership, preferably at board level
It’s not enough for your strategy to be HR-driven – your employees need role models and top-down story-telling so that they can feel safe when it comes to being open about mental health. Generate conversations by supporting events such as Mental Health Awareness Week in May or World Mental Health Day on 10th October. Communicate your engagement through your company intranet, newsletters and employee handbook.
3. Involve line-managers from the get-go
They are the people on the frontline and the ones mostly likely to be responsible for dealing with mental health in your workforce day-to-day. Remember that some people are in management positions because of their technical competency rather than their interpersonal skills. They may want to ask someone if they’re alright, but they might also be worried about what they should do if the answer is no. They’ll need a workplace wellbeing toolkit that comes with specialist training.
4. Invest in Mental Health First Aid training
Mental Health First Aiders can be managers or simply employees with an interest in mental health and supporting others. Our Mental Health First Aid course teaches participants how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health problem. It works in much the same way as someone trained in physical first aid. Certified Mental Health First Aiders are not expected to provide ongoing treatment for mental health conditions, but they are able to recognise crucial warning signs and signpost their colleagues towards professional help.
5. Create the business case for your strategy
All senior leaders are under pressure to optimise profits. As with any workforce initiative they need a return on investment, so deliver the data on productivity, performance, staff absences, sickness and retention that demonstrates the value of prioritising mental health in the workplace. The landmark Stevenson-Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers, commissioned by the UK government and published last year, found that businesses investing in mental health interventions reported an average £4.20 return for each pound spent.
6. Keep up the momentum
Often it’s the small touches that make the big difference. As a manager, this might mean encouraging staff to step away from their desk regularly, or to reclaim their lunch break. Every business has its all-hands-to-the-pump moments, but make sure you have power-down hours as well, where everyone switches off email. And don’t forget your remote workers. They don’t have the tedious commute, but they can often feel isolated and it’s important to maintain regular contact, not just via email, but with Skype or FaceTime. Ensure that they’re aware of your mental health strategy as well as everything else going on in your business.
For more details on our upcoming events on mental health awareness and workplace wellbeing, head to our Events page.