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Whilst annual events such as World Mental Health Day remind us to recognise the importance of doing everything possible to prevent mental ill-health and to revisit mental health and well-being strategies in the workplace, it’s vital that employers show serious commitment to positive employee mental health throughout the year.

What steps can employers take in their workplaces to meet everyone’s mental health and well-being needs?

  • Keep the conversation about mental well-being ongoing all year round by supporting different campaigns to reduce stigma and raise awareness. This will encourage people to seek help. Mental Health UK provides access to a Mental Health Awareness Calendar help to raise awareness of mental health, and the problems faced by those living with different mental illnesses.
  • Organise or encourage wellness activities for employees to help energise them and encourage them to think about their well-being/self-care. Unfortunately, most of us are often too busy with work and daily demands to even stop and think about our mental health or well-being. Ensure that each of the business’s managers are up to speed with any mental health training and that they encourage employees to set goals such as meditation before starting work (and see below). Research shows that as little as 10 minutes mindfulness practice a day can physically change your brain over a short period of time. Remind employees to make time for their well-being by taking regular breaks from their screen, making sleep a priority and eating well.
  • Lead by example. To be comfortable talking about their mental health struggles, employees will need to feel confident that their employers won’t judge them for it. One effective way to inspire confidence is to have senior executives openly discuss their experiences with mental health. This sends a clear signal that leaders within the company feel there is no shame in having or discussing one’s mental health.
  • Training managers on mental health awareness to equip them with a baseline knowledge of tools they can use during difficult conversations, how to recognise the warning signs that someone might be struggling and how to identify what adjustments may need to be put in place to meet that individual’s particular needs. They are often the ‘front line’ for their staff – and making those staff feel comfortable to speak about how they are doing, perhaps for the first time that they have raised their well-being, is a huge support for employees. It’s imperative that managers understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. ACAS offer free online training and many other resources to support mental health at work.
  • Provide accessible mental health benefits. Remind employees about internal support services such as Employee Assistance Programmes. Consider providing regular well-being webinars that focus on key areas such as general well-being, adapting to change, stress and anxiety, breathing & relaxation techniques, financial wellbeing or nutrition are important to show commitment making mental health a priority for all.
  • Have Mental Health First Aiders or Champions. People sometimes find it easier to speak to someone who isn’t their Manager. Peer support allows people to support one another outside of the line-management structure.
  • Provide regular opportunities to discuss, review and reflect on people’s positive achievements. Ensuring that the first question in any one-to-one or catch up is asking the question ‘how are you?’. This basic question is too often overlooked and the focus of such conversations becomes solely performance and work-based.
  • Consider offering Mental Health Days. Taking time off can be just as essential to preserve and restore one’s mental health as it is physical health. Businesses could consider explicitly including mental health days in paid leave policies. It’s important for leaders to regularly highlight this and use it themselves so that the rest of the workforce don’t think the policy is only there for appearances or any type of employee relations compliance target.

It’s vital that employers take regular action and engage meaningfully in taking steps make mental health for all a number one priority.

You may also like to visit The Mental Health Foundation – our best mental health tips and read our related article: World Mental Health Day 2022: Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority

Rix & Kay’s dedicated Employment team provide expert guidance for businesses on all areas of employment law including mental health training, strategies to prevent mental ill-health, programmes for managers and wider strategic planning. The firm also provides a fixed cost employment law and HR retainer services for businesses called GatekeeperHR.

For more information about how we can help or just an informal chat contact Georgina Hardcastle, member of Rix & Kay’s GatekeeperHR Team. e. georginahardcastle@rixandkay.co.uk t. 01825 744 409

GatekeeperHR is a fixed cost, employment law and HR retainer service which provides businesses with access to a dedicated team of experienced lawyers and HR professionals who you can speak to, or meet face-to-face, at any time. The service includes a full HR compliance audit, access to an online portal full of valuable employment law and HR resources and an annual training session on topics of your choosing. To find out more about GatekeeperHR, please contact us.

Alternatively, you can browse the GatekeeperHR website, sign up for a free trial or download our brochure by visiting www.gatekeeperhr.co.uk.