Today marks World Mental Health Day 2022, an annual campaign run by the World Health Organisation. 

When it comes to mental health in the workplace, HSE statistics for 2020/21 show that stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases. Such statistics highlight how important it is for employers to recognise the impact that mental ill health can have on their workforce and to take a proactive approach to mental wellbeing within their organisations. 

What can employers do to promote mental wellbeing?

Mental ill health can be related to problems inside or outside the workplace. Regardless of the cause, employers can take a proactive approach towards mental wellbeing - below are some examples.

Increase awareness and understanding of mental health

  • Understand what mental ill health encompasses and assess the risks of work-related stress or other mental ill health issues affecting your workforce. This will help to plan the best strategy for the organisation.
  • Know your legal obligations, such as the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers.
  • Educate staff on mental health to help change outdated perceptions. This could involve training management teams on how to deal with mental ill health issues; appointing mental health first-aiders; and ensuring all staff are provided with mental health awareness information, including details of available support.
  • Encourage open conversations about mental ill health to help create an environment where employees feel able to discuss their concerns. Often individuals with diagnosed mental health conditions do not inform their employers of their diagnosis which contributes to increased levels of presenteeism.
  • Consider creating a dedicated mental health policy.

    Create a flexible work environment

    Consider taking steps to promote a more flexible working environment by, for example, being flexible about start and end times and encouraging agile, home or hybrid working where appropriate. Even making small adjustments can help to get the best from staff and can be particularly beneficial to workers with young families or other caring commitments.

    Deal with any statutory flexible working requests reasonably, bearing in mind that decisions on flexible working can potentially give rise to discrimination claims.

    Communicate regularly 

    It's important for managers to keep in touch and stay connected with their teams, particularly given the prevalence of hybrid working in many workplaces, with full teams less likely to all be in the office together on a daily basis. Good communication can help your employees to feel supported, reduce feelings of isolation and hopefully they will feel more able to raise any concerns that they have.

    Also consider your induction programme for new recruits. Starting a new role can be difficult, particularly for those who are working remotely. Ensure employees are given sufficient information, training and support. 

    Frequently review workloads

    Frequently review the working hours and volume of work being carried out by employees. This will help identify when they may be overburdened and potentially reduce risks of burn-out and stress early on. Capacity trackers can be a helpful tool, alongside regular catch ups with colleagues.

    Promote / consider implementing wellbeing initiatives 

    Ensure employee wellbeing materials and information are clearly signposted, so employees know what additional help and advice is available. You may want to create an employee wellbeing hub on your intranet site, if you have one. Also ensure that line managers know where they can access additional help and advice. 

    If you don't currently have any wellbeing initiatives in place, consider the feasibility of introducing some and their potential benefits. For example employee assistance services, running clubs, yoga classes, subsidised gym memberships, lunch tokens, cycle to work schemes etc.

    Some organisations offer 'wellbeing days' - these mean different things in different organisations but options include offering extra paid time off (in addition to holiday entitlement); or designating days to focus on employee wellbeing, perhaps with activities and awareness sessions. 

    No one size fits all approach

    How best to promote mental wellbeing is likely to differ depending on the type of organisation and the relevant industry. It is worth taking some time to consider the most effective way to implement and promote any new policies and practices to ensure your business and staff get the most out of them.

    More information 

    If you would like to discuss anything regarding workplace wellbeing or have any queries on how to manage mental ill health issues, please get in touch with a member of our Employment and Immigration team.

    If you would like to hear more about Workbox by Brodies, our award-winning HR and employment law site, please get in touch with the Workbox team