Paul McGregor, founder of Everymind at Work, lists seven ways in which employers and businesses can begin to normalise mental health in the workplace and support their staff.
There’s no doubt that the mental health of employees and individuals has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the impact has filtered through to many aspects of our lives, both at work and in our personal lives. Stress, financial worries, job insecurity, redundancy, isolation, loneliness, illness, and uncertainty are just some of the consequences and almost everyone will have been impacted by at least one.
As a result, there has never been a more poignant time to further smash the stigma and normalise mental health discussions and awareness within the workplace. We’ve put together seven ways in which employers and businesses can begin to normalise mental health conversations and awareness within the workplace – regardless of whether you’re back in the workplace or continuing to work remotely. We hope it helps and inspires!
1. Start the conversation
Sadly, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, particularly within the workplace. We might feel scared to open up, scared that we will be judged or that it might be seem like a sign of weakness. That is not true!
Mental health difficulties are far more common than you think, especially after everything we’ve been through as a society and economically over the past few months.
As more and more people return to work, one way employees and businesses can show support is to get a senior member of staff – whether that be the CEO, a member of the HR Department or someone within senior management – to send out an email to all staff acknowledging how difficult the past few months have been and to say that the literal and metaphorical door is always open if they need to speak to someone or feel they are struggling.
Not only does that demonstrate acknowledgement, awareness, and compassion, but it might give people the confidence and reassurance to know that it’s okay to reach out and that they won’t be judged. Further breaking the stigma.
2. Regular check-ins/one-to-ones
Whether you’re back in the office or working remotely, it’s important to check in with your staff regularly and individually to see how they’re doing. This can be done either in person or virtually. Not only does this remind them that you’re there for them but having a time and space dedicated to them only will make them feel valued and, again, might give them the confidence to talk more honestly and vulnerably about how they truly feel.
3. Get out of the office as a team!
We’ve all been cooped up within four walls for months and this might have been a very lonely and isolating time, especially for employees who live alone. By getting your team outside, whether that be a socially distanced walk or picnic in the park, this will give your employees a sense of connection and togetherness and it’s often easier to open up and talk more organically and honestly when we’re outside the office walls!
4. Nominate a Mental Health First Aider or Mental Health Ambassador
Often people find it very difficult to go straight to a senior member of team and let them know that they’re struggling with their mental health. Training one of your employees to become a Mental Health First Aider, who is perhaps knowledgeable or passionate about mental health, might make it easier for employees to come forward.
Mental health first aid has often been the go-to, but personally I prefer the idea of champions. It’s important to have staff who are equipped but it’s also important to highlight and empower employees who want to push the mental health agenda within the workplace. We all have mental health, many employees may have dealt with a mental health challenge at some point in their lives too, and empowering them to share their stories and experiences is key to breaking down the walls that surround mental health.
5. Education and training – it comes from the top!
One of the main influences on how comfortable employees feel about coming forward and admitting they’re struggling with their mental health and wellbeing is the relationship they have with their managers. By educating them and encouraging senior employees to let their team know that they are there for them, available to discuss mental health and are a source or support should they need it, will again help to further smash the stigma and help to create a more open and supportive work environment and culture.
Let’s be honest, we’re not educated about mental health at school. This lack of understanding is dangerous and causes us to ignore mental health altogether. The more education you can provide the better.
6. Get people involved through interactive wellbeing events
There are many forms of mental health support that can be implemented within the workplace, such as talks, team activities, wellbeing events and interactive webinars. Hosting these within your company will signal to your employees that you’re committed and invested not only in mental health in general, but their physical and mental wellbeing as individuals.
Also, by taking a proactive approach, a wellbeing maintenance programme so to speak, means that fewer employees might hit rock bottom before they ask for help. Investing in wellbeing on a regular basis will empower your team and give them the tools, awareness and skills to nurture and manage their mental wellbeing, potentially before it hits crisis point.
7. Invest in an external mental health support provider
We completely understand that HR and senior management teams are stretched right now, but mental health awareness and support at work has perhaps never been so crucial. There are many amazing external providers that you can look to that will manage and support the mental health awareness and wellbeing of your employees on your behalf. These companies will provide 24/7 personalised support to your entire workforce with unlimited access, so whether they’re at work or at home, they have continued support.
Using an external mental health expert provider might also mean your employees will feel more comfortable about being truly honest and open about their mental wellbeing, therefore receiving a more relevant type of support that they need personally.
I started Everymind at Work to provide mental health support to businesses and their employees, no matter the size or demand. Mental health at work has always been a priority, but now more than ever employees need support. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but by investing in mental health within the workplace you’re not only investing in the wellbeing of your company, but in each and every one of your employees.
That is priceless, and the benefits – immeasurable.
Thanks to Paul McGregor for sharing this article.
Author: Paul McGregor is a mental health speaker, advocate, author and founder of Everymind at Work. Find out more here https://www.everymindatwork.com/
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