Work makes up a significant proportion of many people’s lives. It’s where we spend a lot of our time, how we earn our income and a place that we might make friends. Feeling a sense of fulfilment at work can contribute to good mental health and positive wellbeing.
However, if your work begins to get on top of you, or the stress becomes too much, it’s easy for your mental wellbeing to take a nose dive. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to understand how to promote mental wellbeing in the workplace and take practical steps to support their employees when it comes to maintaining good mental health.
In this article, we’ll explain more about mental health at work, including the legal obligations of the employer. We’ll also discuss some practical steps that employers can take to promote good mental wellbeing in their employees, both at work and in their personal lives.
What is mental wellbeing?
Mental wellbeing is about looking after our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. This means feeling positive about life, accepting ourselves for who we are, handling stressful situations in a healthy way, having satisfying personal relationships and finding purpose in life.
When a person’s mental wellbeing deteriorates, it can lead to mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. External factors such as pressure at work or worries at home can contribute to the beginning of mental health conditions, which is why it’s so important that businesses promote mental wellbeing in the workplace.
However, it’s important to note that mental wellbeing is not just the absence of mental health problems; it’s about feeling good mentally and emotionally most of the time.
What does the law say about mental health at work?
The law is clear that employers have a duty of care to their employees and must take steps to protect their mental wellbeing. This means ensuring that the workplace is a healthy and safe environment, providing support for staff who are struggling, and raising awareness of mental health issues.
Under the Equality Act 2010, people with disabilities are protected against discriminated and harassment at work. The majority of people with ongoing mental health conditions will fall into this category, and therefore gain this protection. Employers should make sure that they have policies in place that are designed to protect staff from discrimination or harassment based on their mental health.
Benefits of promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace
Research has shown that promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace comes with some significant benefits for the business. These benefits include:
- Keep your employees healthy
- Improved productivity
- Reduced rates of employee absence
- Increased staff morale
- Greater levels of customer satisfaction
- Increased creativity and innovation
- Improved problem solving skills
Practical steps to promote mental wellbeing at work
It is the employer’s duty to take reasonable practical steps that ensure that their employees are not exposed to risk. This also applies where the employer knows that there is a possibility that one of their employees has begun to show signs of a mental health problem.
Let’s take a look at some of the practical steps that you can take, as an organisation, to promote mental wellbeing in the workplace.
1. Create a healthy physical work environment
A healthy physical environment is key to promoting mental wellbeing. This means ensuring that the workplace is tidy and clean, there are plenty of natural light, and that the temperature is comfortable.
Organisations can create a healthy physical environment by regularly cleaning communal areas, ensuring that desk space is adequate and organising car parking. Having a comfortable temperature in the workplace ensures that employees can work without being too hot or cold.
2. Promote a healthy work-life balance
It’s important that employees feel like they have a good work-life balance. This means that they should be able to switch off from work when they’re not at work, and not feel guilty about taking time for themselves.
Organisations can promote a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible working hours, ensuring that there is no expectation to take work home and providing time-off for annual leave, sick leave, and parental leave.
3. Encourage employees to take regular breaks
How often do you see employees eating their lunch at their desks whilst catching up on emails? It’s no wonder that so many of us feel stressed out at work!
Encouraging employees to take regular breaks is a great way to promote mental wellbeing. This means taking a break from work to have a healthy meal, go for a walk or just relax in a comfortable environment.
Organisations can encourage employees to take regular breaks by providing communal areas where employees can eat their lunch, providing healthy food options, and setting a policy that encourages employees to take breaks.
4. Provide training on mental health and stress management
Many employees feel uncomfortable discussing mental health issues, which is why it’s important to provide training on mental health and stress management. This will help employees to identify the signs of a mental health problem, and know where to go for help.
Organisations can provide training on mental health and stress management by organising workshops or providing online resources.
5. Offer access to counselling or support services
A great way to promote a supportive, open and comfortable environment is by offering access to counselling or support services. This demonstrates to your employees that you are serious about mental health, and that you will support them if they speak up.
Organisations can offer access to counselling or support services by organising workshops about mental health, providing information about where employees can go for help, and including contact details on posters.
6. Raise awareness of mental health issues
Mental health is still a taboo topic, and many people are reluctant to discuss it. This is why it’s important for organisations to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Organisations can raise awareness of mental health issues by organising campaigns, displaying posters and providing information packs.
7. Ensure employees are aware of their rights
Employees should be aware of their rights if they are feeling mentally unwell at work. It can be helpful to have a policy in place that outlines the process for employees to access support, and how this support will be funded.
Why not try including a section about mental health in your next newsletter, raising awareness of mental health and signposting your employees to support services if they require it?
How can line managers support the mental wellbeing of their employees?
How a line manager acts when it comes to supporting mental wellbeing can have a significant impact on the mental health of their team. That’s why line managers play such an important role in promoting mental wellbeing at work.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which line managers can play their part in promoting good mental health in the workplace.
1. Set a good example
If your employees see you neglecting your own mental wellbeing, they may feel pressured to do the same themselves. That means working through your lunchbreak, staying at work late, taking your laptop home to catch up on emails and not taking your annual leave.
Line managers can send a clear message to their team that mental wellbeing is important by maintaining their own work-life balance. Not only will this help you to be a better manager, but it will also encourage your team to do the same.
2. Be available
There’s nothing more important than being present when your staff need you. Scheduling regular one-to-ones or catch ups is a great way to stay in touch with your team and ensure that they know you’re there if they need to talk about anything. It’s important to have good working relationships and build the trust of your employees, so that they feel that they can talk to you if needed.
3. Manage workload
Managing the workload of your employees is one of the most important roles of a line manager. That means ensuring that one person isn’t overwhelmed with work whilst others have free time on their hands. Communicate your expectations clearly with your staff and ensure that reasonable deadlines are agreed. Check in regularly to ensure that they’re coping with their workload, and redistribute work where required to ensure that no one feels undue pressure.
4. Treat your employees as individuals
Every single one of your employees is their own person, with their own personal lives. This means that they may have things going on outside of work and causing them stress which will be invisible to you.
Make sure that you praise good work and give recognition where required. Listen to your employees when they have something to say and make sure that they always feel respected. Try asking your employees for feedback on the support that they’re receiving, and whether there’s anything more you can do to support them in both their job role and in their personal development.
5. Create opportunities
Professional development is essential in any job role. Not only will it open up doors for the future and equip the employee with new skills, but it will also demonstrate to the employee that they are valued.
Line managers can create opportunities for their employees to learn and grow within their role. This could involve sending them on training courses, arranging for them to shadow other members of staff or allocating them specific development goals.
Can I dismiss an employee with mental health issues?
If your employee is suffering from a mental illness, you need to be very careful before making the decision to terminate their employment. If you do so without properly considering the issue, you may find yourself facing legal action.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee as a result of their disability (their mental health condition). If the dismissal is related to their condition, it would be considered unfair dismissal if you dismissed the employee, and they could make a claim at an employment tribunal. For this reason, we’d always recommend seeking specialist legal advice before dismissing an employee with a mental health condition.
Do I have to disclose mental illness to my employer?
There is no legal obligation to disclose mental illness to your employer, unless it is affecting your work performance. However, we would always recommend doing so as it can help to create a more supportive and understanding workplace environment. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing the issue with your boss, you could speak to your HR department or a trusted colleague. When discussing your mental illness with your employer, the aim should be to find a way for you and your manager to work together to try and improve things.
What is workplace anxiety?
Workplace anxiety is a term used to describe a range of symptoms that can be caused by stress and anxiety in the workplace. These symptoms can include things like difficulty sleeping, irritability, headaches, and chest pain. In severe cases, it can even lead to full-blown panic attacks. Workplace anxiety can affect any employee and is often caused by a combination of factors, including high workloads and poor management.
Mental health is a huge issue in the workplace, and it’s important for organisations to take steps to promote mental wellbeing. These steps can include offering flexible working hours, creating a healthy physical environment, encouraging employees to take regular breaks, providing training on mental health and stress management, raising awareness of mental health issues and offering access to counselling or support services. By taking these steps, organisations can create a supportive and open environment that is conducive to mental wellbeing.
In this article, we’ve discussed why mental health is so important at work, as well as explaining how to promote mental wellbeing in the workplace. We hope you can put some of these practical measures into place in your organisation to promote the positive mental wellbeing of your employees.