- What can employers do to dismantle the stigma around mental health in the workplace and encourage people to ask for support?
- A recent roundtable by the Flexible Space Association explored this topic and offered solutions on how to prioritise mental health at work.
- Here are 24 takeaways from the event, which includes signing the Time to Change pledge and introducing wellness rooms in your space.
Studies show that around 1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace.
Unsurprisingly, issues around mental health are being exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic – in September 2020 we wrote about new research revealing higher levels of stress among workers and expectations of an impending mental health crisis.
With this in mind, what can employers do to dismantle the stigma around mental health in the workplace and encourage people to ask for support before they reach a crisis point?
On Thursday 4th February, the annual Time to Talk Day 2021, the Flexible Space Association (FlexSA) was joined by Lauren Adams (HR Director at the CBI), Alexandra Brunner (Chief Operating Officer at Clockwise Offices) and Sami Hindmarsh (Admin & Events at The Deep Business Centre).
During the webinar, the panellists explored the resources and training employers can offer to raise the profile of mental health and improve staff wellbeing at work.
Watch the webinar in full:
Mental Health in the Workplace – 24 Takeaways from the Webinar
Q: Why should employers focus on mental health in the workplace?
- Employers are in a unique position in terms of being able to impact the population’s mental health; they have a responsibility to take action.
- If you don’t make mental health a priority from the beginning, it will become one further down the line, which is why it should be embedded from the start.
- 1 in 5 people take medication for depression – mental health extends beyond the workplace and employers should build an awareness and support it.
- It makes sense from a financial perspective – following the 2008 financial crash, businesses with more robust mental health action plans bounced back quicker.
Q: What are some practical steps for raising awareness of mental health at work?
- Review your current processes and ask your team what they want; use these insights to replace under-utilised benefits with those that will have a bigger impact.
- Consider signing the Time to Change pledge to support mental health in the workplace and appoint Mental Health Champions to be beacons for signposting.
- After introducing Time to Change, The Deep saw an increase in the number of people stepping forward to ask for help with their mental health.
- Consider introducing quiet rooms and wellness spaces, as well as games such as wellness bingo to share quick tips for how to boost your mood.
- To break the stigma, make sure your mental health strategy is led from leadership down – encourage people to share their experiences and signpost employees to places where they can get professional advice and help.
- Consider appointing Mental Health First Aiders who can work with managers and staff to spot the relevant signs that someone is struggling and signpost them to the relevant support. MHFAs have been invaluable for the CBI during the pandemic and have provided employees with someone to ‘check in’ with.
- Utilise all the free resources out there, including mental health apps.
- Equip managers with the training and tools they need to be able to have conversations about mental health, and consider providing each team with its own mental health action plan detailing tips and tools for managing mental health at work.
- Extend events and resources to your clients as well as your employees.
Q: What can small businesses with minimal budgets do around mental health?
- Small things such as smiling at people when they walk into the building and saying ‘hello’ can have a huge impact. Communication is key.
- There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; draw on the resources that are already out there and tweak them for your own organisation.
- Try online activities like coffee roulette to replace those organic office conversations; however, always provide a choice of activities to cater for introverts and extroverts.
- Consider introducing a ‘wellness hour’ where employees can take an hour out of the working week whenever they choose to do something they enjoy.
- Include links to mental health resources on your website and share related content in your newsletter (subscribe to Allwork.Space’s newsletter for wellness Wednesday tips).
- Think about how issues around the pandemic are impacting different groups within your organisation, e.g. working parents or carers.
Q: How can employers design a return to work strategy that prioritises mental health?
- Be aware that people with pre-existing mental health conditions may be anxious about returning to work following a lockdown scenario.
- Managers should be having conversations with employees about when and how they want to return; if possible, survey staff (in a sensitive and appropriate way).
- Re-evaluate your workspace’s layout and design and be aware that people may be more sensitive to noise and disruption after working from home. It could take those who have lost the ability to ‘blank out’ background noise extra time to adjust.
- Moving forward, plan ‘agenda-less’ chats with employees.
- Continue to be aware and respectful of everyone in the team and make a conscious effort not to leave anyone out.
As well as The Flexible Space Association’s webinar, be sure to check out their bank of resources for more information on how you can make mental health a priority in 2021 .