Many business owners or employers feel that an employee’s mental health isn’t their issue. But the truth is that how an employee feels, thinks and acts impacts everything from their productivity, to communication to their ability to maintain safety in the workplace. Helping employees improve their mental health could be one of the most important steps an employer can take to improve an individual’s well-being, as well as the health of their entire business. So how can you create a positive environment for mental health in the workplace?
The Cost of Mental Health
In the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year. In a week, 1 in 6 people report having a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. With these figures so high, it is so important that business owners take action to make their workplace environment mentally healthy.
Mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK. The wider economic costs of mental illness in England have been estimated at £105.2 billion each year. This includes direct costs of services, lost productivity at work and reduced quality of living. Mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost annually. Every year it costs business £1,300 per employee whose mental health needs are unsupported
Obviously, a healthy workplace environment will not prevent or reduce all mental health problems. These will still come from life experience and past trauma all play a role in developing mental health problems. But employers can have steps in place to help employees build mental strength so that they can stay as healthy as possible. Below are our suggestions on how to have this happen in your business.
8 Ways to Create a Healthy Mental Workplace Environment
#1 Reduce the Stigma
For a long time, talking about mental health was a taboo subject, and it still can be for some people. Talk about stress management, self-care and mental health in emails, meetings etc. If your employees trust that you won’t think they are “crazy” then they are more likely to speak up and receive treatment.
#2 Discuss Mental Health in the Workplace
Openly discuss and bring up issues related to workplace mental health such as stress, depression and anxiety and make it clear that everyone struggles to stay mentally healthy sometimes. Educate your managers in spotting the signs of mental health problems and encourage them to talk to their team. Sometimes a caring conversation can be encouraging for the employee to get help.
#3 Run a Mental Health First Aid Course
Mental Health First Aid teaches managers and staff what to look for, do and say so you can do the right thing at the right time. Mental Health First Aid teaches people to identify and support colleagues at work who may be experiencing or at risk of a mental health crisis and connect them with the correct employee resources for help. We at Oxford CBT offer a Mental Health First Aid course. Find out more here.
#4 Promote a Healthy Work/Life Balance
Without a healthy work/life balance, productivity is likely to decrease and employees will eventually burn out. Insist employees take regular breaks when they can and understand that not everyone will respond to their emails outside of work hours. Encourage your employees to develop a rich and full life outside of work and to spend time with loved ones as this will better themselves.
#5 Make Wellness a Priority
Make it a priority to help employees develop good workplace mental health habits. You could offer incentives to employees who participate in wellness programs, or possibly offer free gym memberships. Exercise, healthy eating, and participation in leisure activities are a few simple ways to build mental strength and improve mental health. Some organisations have wellness days where they organise small treats for their staff, such as massages or nail treatments during the workday.
#6 Support Employees’ Efforts to Get Help
Lots of employees don’t hesitate to ask for time off work for a dentist appointment for example, but many are shy when it comes to discussing and addressing their mental health needs. Make it clear that you support your employees efforts to take care of their minds just as much as their bodies. Allow a flexible work schedule to allow for employees to attend counselling appointments, or offer staff a mental health day when it is needed.
#7 Encourage Mentoring and Peer Support
Sometimes people find it easier to speak to people who are not their manager. Peer supporters would allow staff to support one another outside of the line management structure. This would allow someone the safe space to discuss any issues they are feeling about their mental health.
#8 Raise Awareness of Mental Health Issues
There are national awareness campaigns that your company could use to promote awareness of mental health issues and hold seminars or talks about mental health during these times. Mental Health Awareness Week is in May and World Mental Health Day is in October. During these times you could invite a speaker in to talk about mental health and encourage sharing of stories from people within your business.