Promoting positive mental health at work is essential for organisations of all sizes.
Stigma around mental health means many people avoid talking openly about it, but attitudes are beginning to change. Initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week help improve understanding of mental health and encourage open discussion about it.
Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual campaign hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. This year it takes place from 13th-19th May, and will focus on the theme of Body Image.
Dissatisfaction with our bodies can have profound implications for our mental health and, conversely, poor mental health may exacerbate existing body image issues.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week aims to start a national conversation about how we can be kinder to our bodies and guard against poor body image. Employers can get on board by taking positive steps to improve employee mental health.
The benefits of promoting positive mental health at work
Promoting positive mental health at work can be enormously beneficial for both employers and employees.
Thriving at Work, an independent review of mental health commissioned by the government in 2017, found that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion every year. Improved employee mental health results in improved performance, less absence and lower staff turnover.
Here are four steps your organisation can take to start promoting positive mental health at work:
Develop an action plan
Develop a mental health action plan that sets out how you will promote positive mental health, and share it with your employees. You could also publish it online, which may make your organisation more appealing to job seekers.
The organisation Time to Change helps employers develop mental health action plans as part of its Employer Pledge initiative. By signing up to the Pledge, you can demonstrate your commitment to promoting positive mental health at work and make sure employees feel supported.
Lead by example
Ensure senior managers openly champion positive mental health. They could do this by holding team meetings that discuss mental health or organising initiatives designed to raise awareness.
If any senior managers have personal experience of poor mental health, encourage them to talk openly about it. This will help to normalise the subject, so staff feel better able to talk to their manager or colleagues about their own mental health.
Promote physical health
Physical activity has been shown to improve mental wellbeing, protecting against conditions like depression and anxiety. It can also improve self-esteem, which can help with body image issues.
Encourage employees to get active – you could sign up to the Cycle to Work scheme to get employees cycling, offer free gym memberships or have a lunchtime yoga class at your workplace.
Encourage a healthy work-life balance
An unhealthy work-life balance is a common cause of poor mental health at work.
Promote a healthy work-life balance by encouraging employees to take proper lunch breaks, use their full annual leave allowance and avoid working long hours or at weekends. Again, senior managers can lead by example. You could also offer flexible working to enable employees to fit work around their other responsibilities.
Organising regular social events and fun activities for your employees is a great way to boost morale and show that you value leisure time.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, why not kickstart your commitment to promoting mental wellbeing in your organisation by following the steps above? For more information on promoting positive mental health at work, check out this guidance from Acas.