12 November 2021

How to create a mentally healthy workplace

Mental wellbeing is on the decline. Even before the pandemic, the cost of poor mental health to UK employers had rocketed to £45 billion a year (Deloitte). The challenge for employers is clear: to build mentally healthy workplaces where all employees perform at their best.

No longer a nice-to-have, a robust strategy for employee mental health and wellbeing is increasingly recognised as vital for business success. Whether you are figuring out where to start or are looking for ways to develop your existing initiatives, our guide for creating a mentally healthy workplace will give you the inspiration you need to drive lasting change.

1. Align your mental health programme with your organisational strategy

To move away from tick box mental health initiatives requires a bigger vision. As you look to develop a mentally healthy workforce, spend some time considering what you hope to achieve.

  • What would success look like?
  • How does this align with your organisation’s broader strategy, vision and values?
  • How would it support individuals, teams, managers and the larger organisation?

As you implement your mental health strategy, continue to check-in at regular intervals to ensure that your actions are still aligned. Keeping one eye on the big picture will help to maintain momentum, and keep you moving forward in the right direction.

2. Consider the full continuum of mental health

As you develop your workplace mental health strategy, consider the following 3 groups:

  • Those who are struggling and need specialist support
  • Those who can learn to pay attention to the early warning signs of a dip in mental health
  • Those who can build their resilience and develop thriving wellbeing

Fortunately, it has never been easier for individuals to monitor their wellbeing and mental health. Wraw gives individuals insight into their resilience and wellbeing. With regular check-ins all working people can take proactive steps to limit the impact of stress.

3. Challenge mental health stigma

In 2020, Antonio Horta-Osorio, the Group Chief Executive of Lloyds Banking spoke openly about his own struggles with mental health as he led the bank through recovery from the financial crisis. He warned that organisations that fail to take the mental health of their people seriously risk “breaking employees’ lives and families”. Testimonials such as these from leaders of organisations have started to normalise open conversations about mental health in the workplace. But there is still a way to go.

To challenge ongoing mental health stigma in the workplace consider the following strategies:

  • Introduce mental health awareness programmes
  • Train managers to hold wellbeing conversations with their teams
  • Develop a team of Mental Health First Aiders to provide targeted support
  • Encourage senior leaders to raise mental health at a strategic level
4. Focus on prevention

When an employee is unable to work due to mental health challenges, the human and business cost is considerable. Employee Assistance Programmes and professional mental health services provide invaluable specialist support at these times. Research also shows the parallel importance of prevention. According to Deloitte, workplace mental health programmes that focus on prevention and build employee resilience have the highest ROI (up to 11:1). Consider the following proactive strategies:

  • Form a wellbeing focus group with stakeholders from across the business
  • Bring managers and leaders together to share team resilience best practice
  • Train health and wellbeing champions to promote health and wellbeing
  • Introduce resilience training for individuals, teams and leaders.
Start somewhere

The research is clear: a mentally healthy workplace is good for people and good for the organisation. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you don’t need to have it all worked out from the start. So, identify some key priorities and make a start.