Our Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Emma Mamo, blogs on what employers can do to better support mental health, and what employees should be looking for in light of last year's 'Thriving at Work' report.
Last year the Prime Minister commissioned an independent review into mental health and employment led by Dennis Stevenson and Mind CEO Paul Farmer, as part of a range of measures aimed at transforming mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities.
The review revealed 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem fall out of work every year, a cost of up £99 billion to the UK economy. In addition, the human cost of failing to address mental health in the workplace is clear.
Every employer has a responsibility to support employees with mental health problems and promote the mental wellbeing of their entire workforce.
Despite increased recognition from employers, there is still a long way to go to make sure that those of us with mental health problems are supported to remain in and thrive at work.
The reviewers’ report Thriving at Work, recommended ‘mental health core standards’ that all employers can adopt to better support the mental health of their staff.
The core standards:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan.
- Develop mental health awareness among employees.
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.
- Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development.
- Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors.
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
There are also enhanced standards for employers who can and should do more to lead the way. These include increasing transparency through better reporting, improving disclosure processes and providing in-house mental health support and signposting.
The question for employers now is how do we go about this?
Even with the best intentions, lots of employers aren’t quite sure where to get started: what should a mental health plan contain and how can we create a culture of openness?
What can employers do?
A mental health at work plan should set out how your organisation approaches supporting its staff, including support options available should they become unwell. It should also include policies and procedures that promote wellbeing and tackle the work-related causes of poor mental health.
Providing the correct support for line managers is another crucial part of the solution. The relationship managers have with their staff is key in shaping how employees respond when they’re experiencing stress and poor mental health. Managers need the skills and confidence to manage situations effectively and sensitively so they can start the process of supporting staff in a positive way.
To support employers to normalise conversations about mental health in the workplace, Time to Change – the campaign we deliver in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness – has developed the Time to Change employer pledge.
As part of the pledge you’ll develop an action plan to get your employees thinking and talking more about mental health. This could range from sharing information to running events or training line managers to feel more confident having conversations about mental health with their teams.
Prioritising the mental health of your staff is an ongoing commitment and changes aren’t going to happen overnight. But there are some simple measures which can be introduced sending a clear message that you value your employees.
At Mind, where over half of our staff have mental health problems, we work hard to ensure everyone feels supported. This includes having flexible working hours and holding regular one-to-ones between staff and line managers to provide a space to discuss issues that might be affecting them. We also encourage staff to develop Wellness Action Plans with their line manager - a simple method of facilitating conversations about mental health.
While these new recommendations aren’t mandatory, this is a real opportunity for employers to take steps to transform people’s day-to-day experiences at work. What’s more, investing in supporting mental health at work is good for business and productivity.
And if you're an employee, these recommendations clearly outline what you can expect from your employer in terms of their commitment to better mental health at work.
Whatever stage you’re at, and whether you are an employer or an employee, we’re committed to helping you make your workplace mentally healthy.