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Mental Health Policy in the Workplace Must be Open and Supportive

Published 10th October 2017 by Charlotte Smith

Today is World Mental Health Day, with companies, politicians, charities and the public all bringing attention to the vital importance that our mental health has in every area of life. More specifically, mental health is one of the most pressing issues facing the UK workforce, with the TUC claiming that record numbers of workers are suffering with stress or work-related anxiety.

However, organisational responses to these rising numbers have not been dynamic enough to meet the trend, despite the motivating fact that 45% of days lost to illness in 2016 were due to mental health problems. This means that each and every organisation has a dual imperative to place mental wellbeing at the core of their people management programme to both safeguard employee health, and to support company productivity. 

Contrary to prevailing trends, tackling the damaging impacts of mental health problems on people and productivity is about more than empty office policy initiatives. It’s about communicating directly with your people to develop strategies to improve their wellbeing, and giving them clear frameworks and practical support to do this. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model and this is something that IIP’s Health and Wellbeing guide stresses; we are all different and therefore so are our experiences of dealing with mental health.

IIP’s Health and Wellbeing Guide

In the workplace, the management of stress is not just down to employees. It’s in the interest of every organisation to have solutions in place to mitigate employee stress levels and the detrimental effect that this can have on office life. Managers can have a direct impact on managing the stress levels of their team and it’s vital that they take steps to do so.

 In our health and Wellbeing Guide we recommend the following simple steps to take charge of stress levels in your organisation:

  • Identify the pressure points: There may be specific times that are particularly stressful. Identify these and make sure that everybody plans for them. If possible, provide coaching and mentoring during these periods.
  • Help people support others: consider introducing stress awareness training so people can help colleagues deal with pressure before it becomes excessive
  • Support people in stressful situations: offer employees stress counselling and an employee support line
  • Use a stress survey tool: Stress survey tools are available from the Health and Safety Executive, and commercially.
  • Understand attitudes to work-life balance: Attitudes and support- particularly among line managers – will strongly influence success. If you don’t already offer a flexible working scheme, talk to employees about how such a scheme might improve their work-life balance.
  • Communicate

This last point might seem obvious, but it’s surprising that a failure to communicate organisational policy on mental health is a more common occurrence than you’d expect. But taking even just one of the steps above could have a tangible impact on the level of support experienced by employees in your organisation as they continue to deal with their mental health.

In essence, creating an office culture where people know they can talk about their problems is the most supportive foundation to any mental health awareness programme.

For more detail on how IIP can assist you in supporting the health and wellbeing of your employees, click here: https://www.investorsinpeople.com/sites/default/files/IIP%20Health%20and%20Wellbeing%20Guide_0revisedfinal.pdf