How Employee Wellness is the Route to Tackling Mental Health

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Monday, September 30, 2019

What should businesses be doing to support good mental health through their wellbeing initiatives?

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Mental health in the workplace should be a major concern for any HR manager. Employees can only perform at their best when they're happy, motivated and well-engaged with the business, and failing to look out for telltale signs and address problems can lead to more absenteeism, less engaged workers and higher staff turnover.

Taking steps to promote wellness won't just have an impact on your employees, it will also be good for your reputation and on your bottom line. For instance, a survey by mental health charity Mind found 60% of employees say they would feel more motivated if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing, as well as being more likely to recommend their company to others as a good place to work.

What's more, figures from Business in the Community, FTSE 100 companies that put a high priority on supporting their employees’ wellbeing outperform the rest of the Index by 10%, demonstrating compelling reasons why businesses should focusing on employee health and wellbeing.

Promoting wellbeing to support mental health

Wellbeing at work isn't just about ensuring your employees' physical health is looked after. Mental wellness also plays a key role in keeping staff healthy and productive. But how can you ensure that wellness is a priority in your company, and make certain that what you're doing will have a positive effect on mental health?

Here are some key initiatives you can employ to boost wellbeing in your business:

Embed mental health in your training

It's important to ensure mental health is prioritized right from the start of your relationship with an employee, and this means including it as part of both initial induction procedures and ongoing training. Make sure people are aware of what resources are available and what support is on offer, as well as including mental health as part of equality and diversity training. Tackling the stigma that's still sometimes associated with mental health as early as possible will help ensure employees feel comfortable talking freely about any issues they may have.

Get senior staff on board

Employees are far more likely to buy into wellbeing activities if they feel everyone is onboard with it. If chief executives and other senior staff members speak out about wellbeing, it sends a clear message that the organization is taking this seriously at all levels. Two-thirds of business leaders have suffered from poor mental health, so emphasizing how it's an issue that affects everyone will go a long way to normalizing it in the workplace.

Promote openness

Speaking frequently to employees about how they are doing and finding out what may be causing them stress is another key to promoting wellbeing and good mental health. This might be in a formal setting, such as a regular agenda item in team meetings where employees have a chance to raise any concerns about their working environment, or on a more personal level. This will help make wellbeing an everyday part of the conversation in your business, in turn helping to normalize the process of talking about mental health issues.

Focus on work-life balance

A key part of wellbeing is being able to switch off, and this is an area where employers can have a big influence. Businesses that expect employees to be checking their phone in the evening and be contactable on their days off will quickly find themselves with stressed employees who are at more risk of suffering from mental health issues. HR should go further to promote a healthy work-life balance, such as encouraging employees to take their full lunch allocation away from their desks, or support those who want to work more flexibly.

Addressing the causes of poor mental health

You probably already know some of the causes of poor mental health in the workplace. Issues like stress, high workloads and overly-demanding bosses are some of the more obvious problems that businesses will need to tackle, but sometimes, it may not be clear where these problems exist. If the company culture isn't right, they won't feel able to speak up about it.

Even the physical environment of an office can have a positive or negative effect on employee wellbeing. If it's too noisy, cold or dark, or there is a lack of private spaces people can go to when they need to get away from things, this can seriously impact how employees feel about coming into work every day.

The most important way to address the causes of poor mental health in the workplace is to ensure managers feel comfortable talking about it and encourage employees to approach their line managers when they need to. If employees think they won't be taken seriously, or - worse - that it could damage their future career prospects at the company, they'll keep their issues to themselves, and you may not even realize you have a problem until it's too late.

Therefore, HR needs to lead by example, ensure they are available for employees, and always repeat the message that wellbeing is a top priority.

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