Business is generally striving for a mentally healthy workplace. But what are the steps you should take to ensure that you are providing the best support and sustained activities to move to a workplace that encourages employees who need help to reach out? How can you provide quality support and how do you know where to direct that support?
For this article, we provide 3 steps towards a mentally healthy workplace to guide you based on several pieces of research and the latest discussion emanating from the UK.
What are the 3 steps?
The three steps towards a mentally healthy workplace are:
- Seek Help – Encourage employees who are struggling with their mental health where it is now affecting their mental well-being to reach out and seek help.
To achieve this first step it is imperative that employees feel that they are in a safe environment so that if they do reach out they do not feel stigmatised. They need to not fear that they might be treated differently, or that they may no longer be considered for promotion or more exciting roles or duties. To achieve a workplace that is not plagued by stigma, policies are the first step to ensure employee rights.
Secondly, mental health needs to be an everyday conversation. Thirdly, training in mental health first aid for managers might be a good option to educate on the signs and symptoms and the appropriate way to talk to employees who reach out and seek help.
- Support – Provide training for your employees around mental health conditions and support those who seek help.
To support employees who reach out and seek help, organisations need a quality Employee Assistance Programme in place. Employees need to know how to reach their EAP and access needs to be confidential and non-confrontational. It is here that you might consider utilising online tools and applications that enable direct contact to your EAP to reduce the need for a face-face conversation.
Secondly, employees need training around common mental health issues and to be taught coping strategies they can draw upon when facing difficult situations that impact on their mental health. Training should begin at the safety induction where topics such as workplace bullying and sexual harassment should be covered to start the conversation about mental health from day one.
Training should be continued within your ongoing mental health campaigns and well-being programmes to send the message the employee mental health is important and a priority.
- Sustain – Ensure sustainable best practice to support a mentally healthy workplace.
To ensure ongoing support and mental health and well-being programmes that are effective, data is the key. Many organisations distribute an annual well-being survey, but unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a poor completion rate of as little as 5%.
There are various reasons for this lack of engagement, including the fear that employee answers will be tied to them and this is not an unfounded fear because most employee surveys are distributed to an employee’s email address. Another reason for the poor uptake is that there is an expectation that employee’s responses will not be taken seriously or acted upon and no changes will be made if they provide truthful answers. A final issue with survey responses is they are usually very polarised in their results in that only those who are doing well complete the survey.
However, some data is better than none, and if you take your survey data and combine it with other employee health measures such as BMI scores, healthy eating and stop smoking campaigns, etc. you can begin to build a picture of your workplace’s health.
If you combine this data with that obtained from apps and digital devices, that SafeWork Australia suggest should be mainstream tools in workplace mental health management, including mood trackers, fitness trackers, mental health assessments, etc., then you have a larger data set to help guide your mental health campaigns and target those employees who need the most support.
See our article on encouraging help-seeking.
Things to consider when embarking on Mental Health First Aid Training
Mental health first aid training has been found to be very effective in increasing knowledge regarding mental health issues. It is also effective in decreasing negative attitudes towards people with mental health issues.
Mental health first aid training increases mental health literacy including improvement in self-recognition, increased insight into one’s own and others’ emotional well-being and enhanced mental health-related vocabulary. These outcomes lead to increased coping skills and improved confidence to provide informed support for employees with mental health issues.
Through teaching proactive techniques that can facilitate healthy relations and communication, mental health first aid training aims to equip the participant with skills to provide help to a person in distress or someone who is suicidal.
However, there is an interesting discussion coming out of the UK regarding mental health first aid training and whether it is truly useful for organisations seeking to develop mentally healthy workplaces. Some are questioning the costs and the return on investment.
Mental health first aid training is generally a two-day course and when you add the cost of the course together with the time away from work, some argue that this training is an expensive option for organisations. In addition, mental health first aid providers are not required to be psychologists or qualified counsellors; anyone can deliver the training.
However it must be noted, many who provide mental health first aid training are qualified professionals working in the area. The recommendation is to check the qualifications of the trainer before embarking on a course for your managers and supervisors.
See our article on mental health first aid training.
How can Tap into Safety help?
The Tap into Safety Mental Health Training increases mental health literacy on workplace stressors to teach effective coping strategies. The e-learning solution can be used online, tablets, mobile phone and in the classroom.
Tackling mental health decline to grow a mentally healthy workplace is not solved in a one-size-fits-all approach. Organisations need to offer a variety of solutions and activities to encourage people who need help, to reach out and do so as early as possible. If you would like to know more about our Mental Health Solution contact us and try a FREE online demo today.