Creating an open workplace culture when it comes to mental health

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Health Assured team

23 March 2017

  Lessons from Marks & Spencer’s drop-in pilot   Marks & Spencer is to host mental health drop-ins in its store cafes as part of an initiative designed to offer a space where people can talk openly with others about how they’re feeling. The initiative is part of a partnership with comedian Ruby Wax, who has spoken often about her battle with depression.   Like M&S, other employers can also create an open culture when it comes to mental health. Employers need to consider that mental health is not as overtly obvious as physical ailments, and for this reason an employee’s mental and emotional health can often go undetected. Despite the fact significant strides have been made in terms of positive attitudinal shifts towards mental illness, particularly in the workplace, the long-standing stigma that was once attached to this issue still makes employees uncomfortable in coming forward to their employers and management teams regarding their mental health.   Whether the stigma exists in a workplace or not, if there is a perceived level of stigma attached to mental and emotional health in the organisation, then this can be just as detrimental on the wellbeing of your employees. With the clear links between employees’ wellbeing and their level of performance and morale at work, taking note and modifying the way you address mental health at work, creating an open dialogue between management and employees should be of the upmost importance.   We all deal with workplace stressors on a daily basis, whether that’s excessive workloads or increasing deadlines, but for individuals already experiencing poor mental health, these triggers can have serious long-term consequences.   It is important, then, that employers monitor their employees’ mental health and wellbeing. This can start with a simple conversation to get a general sense of how employees are feeling, moving onto the implementation of staff satisfaction questionnaires, which cover mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, mental health should also be included in any appraisal or staff feedback process to ensure there is a consistent dialogue between management and their employees.   Assessing how mental health is discussed at work is also an important part of creating an open culture when it comes to employee mental health and wellbeing. If it is perceived that employers are not taking stock of employee mental health in the workplace, or approach it in a negative light, then employees will not feel comfortable in coming forward with any issues they are facing. Having strong leadership who demonstrate an open and honest working culture, involving their employees in key decision-making, will go a long way in increasing employee engagement and establishing a workplace that values positive mental health.   Finally, ensuring that the right policies are in place that are inclusive of mental health is extremely important. This will include any policies that pertain to recruitment, sickness absence, return to work, equality and diversity, as well as health & safety. In line with this, management should be fully equipped, trained and confident in dealing with matters of mental health, by helping employees identify the triggers of stress and anxiety at work, developing a plan of action to help deal with these situations.   Excerpt from Health Insurance Daily, read the full article here.

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