How HR Can Prioritise Mental Health at Work
With one in six people experiencing a mental health problem at least once a week, and the pandemic causing a massive upsurge in the diagnoses of mental health problems, there’s a very real need for HR departments to start prioritising mental health care and support in the workplace.
Here are some top tips for how you, as a HR professional, can prioritise mental health at work.
1. Train managers on mental health issues
As a direct contact with employees, managers are often on the front line when it comes to identifying and reacting to mental health problems amongst employees.
As a result, if you’re serious about prioritising mental health at work, it’s important that you provide them with the right training for how they can spot and respond to mental-health-related situations, and how they can support the employees under their care.
There are lots of training providers out there when it comes to mental health awareness courses and training, and the exact type that you choose will depend on your budget and the unique needs of your company. As a general principle though, a good mental health management course will teach your team:
- how to spot if any employees are experiencing poor mental health
- the different types of support and guidance available
- how to direct employees for support and guidance
- how to be a positive mental health role-model in the workplace
2. Develop mental health first-aiders to offer immediate support
A recent report by the Prince’s Responsible Business Network found that 41% of employees experienced mental health problems caused by, or exacerbated by, their work. Even more worrying, the report also found that 30% of employees didn’t tell anyone about their mental health issues.
With figures like that, it’s not surprising that a lot of employers have started training specific members of staff to act as ‘mental health first-aiders’. Similar to the way that employers train workers to deliver basic first-aid, mental health first-aiders are trained to deliver basic mental health support.
Mental health first-aiders act as a point of contact for people who are experiencing poor mental health, providing emotional reassurance and helping to direct them to the relevant type of mental health support.
By directing investing in mental health first-aiders, you can prove to your employees that you’re taking mental health seriously and that it’s an absolute priority for your business.
MHFA England has some great advice for employers when it comes to how to implement a mental health first-aider policy successfully in an organisation.
3. Embed a respect for work-life balance in your culture
The kind of work-life balance that your company has can have a direct impact on the mental health and wellbeing of your workplace.
If your employees are expected to constantly be on-call, to work through breaks or answer emails at 10pm, it’s no surprise that mental health in the workplace would suffer. Companies with a good work-life balance tend to report significantly less mental health problems and burn out than those that don’t.
One of the first steps towards prioritising mental health at work is to embed a clear respect for work-life balance into every aspect of your organisation. You can do this in the policies that you implement towards email usage, the expectations that you set for working hours and in the environment you provide for employee breaks.
We recently wrote a guide on how to improve work-life balance [LINK TO LIVE BLOG] as we return to the office if you’re keen to get some more tips.
4. Communicate about your mental health support systems
If your employees don’t know about the measures that you have in place to support their mental health, don’t be surprised if they don’t access them!
Part of the success of mental health support systems at work is dependent on how aware people are of them. One recent poll by HSE Network found that over a third of workers (34.29%) did not know what mental health support was available from their employer at work.
Here are some ideas to raise awareness of your mental health support programmes:
- Create posters detailing what help is available and display these across the organisation’s premises
- Send out one email a month reminding employees about the mental health support you have available
- Arrange workshops and meetings to publicise the support that your organisation has available
5. Gather regular feedback about employee wellbeing
The more information you have about the mental health of your colleagues, the better you’ll be able to plan and prioritise your mental health strategy. This means that creating and implementing a series of employee wellbeing surveys is probably a good idea when it comes to making mental health a key focus of your organisation.
Of course, not everyone loves to fill out a survey, so to maximise your return rate, sweeten the deal with an incentive. For example, you could create a prize draw for everyone who fills out the survey, offering a gift voucher, bonus or extra holiday for one winner.
You’ll want to gather anonymous information about how employees are feeling and why they are feeling that way. There are lots of templates out there to help you create the right survey for your needs. This one by the British Heart Foundation is a good all-purpose template to try.
We hope these tips have helped you to understand how HR can prioritise mental health in the workplace. Good luck!
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