How to improve mental health at work

Recent evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions, whilst mental ill-health costs employers around £45 billion a year.

Employees on average will spend 3,515 full days at work over the course of their lifetime. While employers will risk reduced production if mental ill-health at work is not addressed. If a business begins to decrease, employees could suffer increased stress, worsening their mental health.

So how can we improve mental health at work? 

Thankfully there are strategies that employers can implement to improve and safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of their employees and business as a whole. 

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8 ways to improve mental health at work

1. Create an open workplace culture

Stigma can sometimes prevents employees from talking to their managers and their colleagues about how they are feeling.

Employees who feel this way may suffer in silence, resulting in reduced performance, increased absences and possibly high staff turnover rates. 

To combat this, managers should openly discuss issues relating to stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Make it clear that anyone can struggle, and that there is support available. Cultivate an open workplace culture where everyone feels comfortable talking openly about how they are feeling.

Managers should also be educated on the early warning signs of mental ill-health so that they can respond appropriately. Even an initial conversation between a manager and employee could encourage someone to get the help they need and begin to improve their mental health at work.

2. Encourage a healthy work-life balance

An unhealthy work/life balance can lead to burnout and declined employee productivity.

Where possible, prevent employees working late or taking work home. Instead, insist that employees regularly take time off where they are able to leave work behind.

Encourage employees to develop a life outside of the office where they can spend time with their families or enjoying hobbies. Employees with a good work/life balance may be more productive and less at risk of developing mental ill-health.

3. Signpost Mental Health Days

If employees are physically ill, they are often encouraged to take the day off to recover. However Mental Health Days are not as prevalent.

If an employee cannot work due to mental ill-health, or suffering symptoms of burnout, they should be treated the same as an employee suffering a physical illness.

Part of preventative health involves giving the mind and body a break. Allowing your staff to take advantage of preventative health measures and recharge may negate mental ill-health symptoms developing further down the road.

Ensure you are clearly signposting Mental Health Days and allowing your employees to access them. Stipulate regularly that Mental Health Days are available for employees as and when they are needed.

Promote positive mental health in the workplace. Find out how here.

4. Know the warning signs of mental ill-health

Managers and line managers should always be educated in spotting early warning signs of mental ill-health so that they can offer support.

If team leaders do spot an employee acting differently, i.e a new recurring low mood, lack of enthusiasm or irritability, they should check how that employee is feeling. 

Even if the response is closed, or dismissive, managers should remind their employees that they can provide access to supportive resources.

5. Provide access to up-to-date resources

The information you supply to employees must be relevant and up to date. If support resources are outdated, and irrelevant, the support may be ineffective.

Audit the organisation’s mental health resources. Make sure they’re up to date, and are providing safe and professional advice that employees can use on their journey to better mental wellbeing.

Then ensure that you signpost and facilitate access to the resources. Any resources will be ineffective if your employees do not know how to access them.

Remove barriers to access by supplying the content in a multitude of formats, such as audio, braille, video and written. 

6. Train staff in Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aiders are a vital resource for any business. Just like having a physical first aider on site, Mental Health First Aiders are able to assist a colleague suffering with mental ill-health.

Mental Health First Aiders can identify early warning signs of mental ill-health. They are trained to have the confidence and skills to approach a colleague who could be suffering mental health crisis. They can listen non-judgmentally, and point the employee to further support or resources.

It’s estimated that on average UK businesses can save up to £8 billion a year just through improving mental health at work. Implementing better mental wellbeing support, including Mental Health First Aiders is a fantastic resource for colleagues and organisations alike. 

To find out more, discover the courses Great Minds at Work delivers.

7. Create a healthy workplace environment

A negative workplace environment can have detrimental impacts on employees. Negative workplaces are a pressure cooker for mental ill-health, and can lead to quicker burnout and less productivity.

When employees feel motivated and supported in a healthy business environment, they will perform better. This allows staff to perform to their full potential and means the business as a whole will be productive.

It’s important for your employees to feel energized and uplifted by their work environment. Research has shown productivity, engagement, and overall wellness can increase when people feel comfortable in workspaces. Positive additions to a workplace could include: natural lighting; fresh air; plants; break-out spaces; a clean and pleasant area for preparing food and drinks etc.

To find out more about how to nurture a healthy workplace environment, read our blog.

8. Find and appreciate the positives

The workplace can be a place where negativity  and pressure can be cultivated, from difficult projects, or tightening deadlines. 

However there is a way to combat negativities experienced in workplaces. Try appreciating small, but meaningful positives.

These small things all add up, and they can enhance employees’ overall mental wellbeing. Positives could be as simple as recognition for a good job, a great piece of work, or a testimonial from a client. Sharing these regularly can boost employee morale, and motivation, strengthening the culture and community of the workplace.

While improving mental health at work may not be easy, just by being more aware of the mental wellbeing of one another can begin the journey to creating a happier, more positive environment.
Find out more about the Mental Health First Aid courses we can implement in your workplace. Or if you’d like more information, just get in touch with us.