Mental health is just as important as physical health, yet people ignore it because it’s not as visible as a physical condition. Unfortunately, many workplaces make this mistake, and mental health issues lead to decreased productivity and even absences from work.
If you’re wondering how to improve mental health in the workplace and create a supportive environment, this blog post covers everything you need to know.
Let’s dive in.
Mental Health In The Workplace: The Facts
While mental health is still stigmatised in the UK, it’s more common than you might think. According to research from the Mental Health Foundation, 14.7% of employees experience depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions in the workplace.
Further to this, women suffer from mental health problems, and a whopping 12.7% of all absences are due to mental illness.
The fact is that mental health is common, and many people struggle with it in the office – which is attributable to numerous reasons.
Next, we’ll take a look at them and offer some advice on steps you can take to improve the wellbeing of your employees.
Create An Open Culture
One of the best things you can do to improve mental health in the workplace is to create an open culture. Employees should feel comfortable talking about their mental health and seeking help when they need it.
You can achieve this by:
- Promoting mental health awareness
- Encouraging employees to take time off when needed
- Providing support through occupational health
- Having an open door policy
If you create a culture of openness, employees will feel more comfortable coming to you with any problems they may have. This way, you can address them before they become too big and cause absences or decreased productivity.
Offer Flexible Working Hours
Another way to improve mental health in the workplace is to offer flexible working hours, which can significantly help employees struggling with mental health issues.
Flexible hours allow them to work when they feel most productive or start earlier in the day to avoid the evening commute during the winter months.
Not everyone works best from nine to five, so offering flexibility can make a big difference. It also shows employees that you care about their wellbeing and want to accommodate their needs.
If you cannot offer flexible working hours across the board, you could consider letting employees take advantage of them on an ad-hoc basis. For example, if someone is having a tough week, they could take a day or two off and work from home.
Prioritise Skills Building
Investing in employee development is another great way to improve mental health in the workplace. When employees are fulfilled and motivated within their roles, they’re more likely to enjoy a happier life and reduce their risks of mental illness (HSE).
When employees feel stuck in a rut, it can lead to decreased productivity and absences from work. However, employees will be more engaged and motivated if you provide skills-building and development opportunities.
There are numerous ways you can invest in employee development, such as:
- Offering skills training courses
- Subsidising further education
- Providing mentorship programmes
- Encouraging networking opportunities
It’s also important to remember that career progression and skills training can reduce the risks of stress-related illnesses and give your employees a happier work/life balance.
Provide Mental Health Training For Management
Another way to improve mental health in the workplace is to provide management training. Proper training ensures that managers are equipped to deal with any mental health issues among their team.
The training should cover topics such as:
- How to identify the early signs of mental illness
- How to have difficult conversations about mental health
- What resources are available to employees
- How to create a mentally healthy workplace environment
When senior team members understand the true impact of any mental illness, it will improve the company’s approach to supporting the individual.
Promote Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are essential for any workplace, but they’re especially important when it comes to mental health. When employees feel like they belong, they’re less likely to experience anxiety or depression.
While many modern companies embrace diversity, it’s still good to ensure that the message of inclusion transcends from the top down. Plenty of studies show that LGBT individuals are more likely to suffer from depression than heterosexual people, so creating a welcoming and diverse environment can help to reduce the risks.
There are many ways you can promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, such as:
- Making sure your recruitment process is fair and inclusive
- Creating employee resource groups
- Providing training on unconscious bias
- Encouraging open dialogue about diversity and inclusion
You should also have strict policies to deal with racism or discrimination, so your workforce knows they have somewhere to turn should they fall victim.
Implement A Wellbeing Strategy
A wellbeing strategy is a great way to improve mental health in the workplace. By having a plan in place, you can be sure that you’re taking the necessary steps to support your employees.
There are many components of a wellbeing strategy; the important thing to remember is that each employee has different needs. However, some of the most popular ways to promote wellbeing include:
- Encouraging employees to take breaks
- Providing mental health resources
- Implementing flexible working hours
- Investing in employee development
Creating a mentally healthy workplace doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Once management and supervisors are involved, it’s easier to recognise when a particular employee might be struggling.
By making small changes and implementing simple strategies, you can create a positive environment where your employees can thrive.
Mental health can cause debilitating effects, and it’s difficult for people to return to work when they feel stigmatised.
There’s no set way to reduce mental health risks, and some employees may already have prior conditions that increase their chances of becoming depressed, but you can make a difference.
Creating a supportive environment and ensuring your management team understands how to help people properly will make the workplace less stressful for everyone.