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Improving mental health in the workplace

Posted on 5/03/2020 by Samantha Johnston

mental health

In light of today being University Mental Health Day, I wanted to share my top tips on improving mental health in the workplace. Speaking to line managers and HR professionals within the sector, I know this continues to be a growing issue.

University Mental Health Day brings together the university community to make mental health a university-wide priority, to create ongoing year-round change to the future of student mental health.  Mental health affects everyone and a good place to start is protecting the mental health of your workforce.  

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that 17.5 million sick days were taken last year by workers who cited mental health conditions, and those were just  employees who were honest about their reasons for taking the time off. So how do we collectively work together to promote employee wellbeing within universities?

Does your university have a mental health policy?
Firstly, it is important for any employer to create a workplace where the stigma for mental health is removed.  Ensuring your university has a robust and clear mental health policy is key to breaking down barriers around mental health and providing clear guidelines to employees and line managers on how to deal with any adverse mental health issues.

Do line mangers know how to support a staff member who discloses a mental health issue? Does your organisation have a mental health first aider?
Educating your work force on mental health is imperative to removing barriers around mental health. It has been proven that resilience is not a permanent personality trait and that people can learn to improve their resilience through the use of thoughts, actions, and behaviours. With this in mind, it is useful to put together a strategy and training programme around improving employee resilience through good organisational health and a supportive working environment. Having a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) has become very prevalent within the workplace. The course is designed to teach people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis.   

Are the working conditions in your institution supporting employee wellbeing?
Tackle work-related causes of mental health to ensure a healthy, happy and productive workforce.  Encourage staff to feel comfortable requesting a mental health day. This is where you use your sick days to look after your psychological wellbeing.  It is clear that the stigma around mental health needs to be broken and staff should feel comfortable requesting a day off for a mental health issue in the same way as a physical health issue.

Are your employees over-worked?  Are they regularly working long hours?
It’s important to encourage staff to take regular breaks and know that they can request help when they need it. Exercise is often cited as a great way to promote good mental health and here at TPP, we have introduced walking meetings, a great way to promote wellbeing amongst all staff members. We have racked up a whopping 168,645 steps during meetings collectively last year alone, and staff reported feeling more energised, inspired and creative as a result. Providing benefits such as discounted gym membership is another way to promote mental wellbeing. During breaks, TPP staff has access to tea, coffee, and other hot drinks. We also get a selection of fresh fruit and bread supplied each day keeping staff healthy and happy!

It is widely reported that one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue at some point during their working lives. It can be a debilitating experience for the individual in distress, and providing a supportive and inclusive working environment can really go a long way in helping an employee to recover.

If you are looking for new ways to improve the mental health of your employees, we regularly run free seminars and forums for industry professionals in non-profit organisations to share best practices and new ideas around several topics including promoting good mental health.  Get in touch for more information at samantha.johnston@tpp.co.uk or call 020 7198 6090.