A guide to managing Mental Health in the Workplace.

This short guide has been written to help you to build a better understanding of mental health and create an action plan to proactively manage mental health and well-being in the workplace.

Topics covered in this guide:

Mental health is defined as our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act, which determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and how we make decisions.

Just like physical health, mental health is something that affects everybody, and it can fluctuate positively or negatively at any time regardless of age, gender or background.

Many factors can create pressure and contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • The number of people in our social circles and the quality of those relationships
  • The demands and stresses of our working environments
  • Our personal resilience and ability to manage challenges, setback and adversity effectively

Research shows that employees who are happy tend also to have good psychological health. As a result, they tend to work better with others, are more creative, innovative, adaptable to change, productive and have a higher level of commitment to an organisation. In contrast, when people have poor mental health, their happiness declines, and people tend to think, feel or act in ways that aren’t most helpful.

Importantly, not only does this reveal how mental health will impact how we respond to certain situations, it also influences how well we deal and cope with the demands of our jobs and how well we are likely to work with others.

The fact that mental health influences the way people think, feel and act, should signal to employers that they must actively review and pursue ways of creating mentally healthier workplaces.

Organisations must promote mental health and create a ‘culture of care’ whereby people feel comfortable to talk about their state of mind and have the necessary training and resources available to manage mental health.  To achieve this, organisations must take an integrated approach whereby the workforce is self-aware and able to take responsibility for monitoring and managing their personal mental health, leaders demonstrate supportive leadership behaviours and the organisation promotes a culture of support throughout.

Step 1 – Create a culture of care

One of the biggest challenges with mental health is removing the stigma that surrounds it. People don’t hesitate to seek help for a physical pain or problem, yet so many of us ignore emotional and mental health issues; or we feel too embarrassed, confused or scared to talk about them.

As an employer, you should promote mental health and your commitment to supporting your workforce. Doing this will help to normalise the subject, remove the stigma and encourage people to talk more openly about their mental health.

Consider these steps to improve your organisation’s culture and the mental health of your workforce:

  • Develop a good understanding of the aspects of the workplace that negatively and positively affect mental health. Engage the workforce as they will be aware of what needs to improve and will offer practical ideas on the actions to take.
  • Define your cultural values, principles and the key messages you want to communicate to the workforce about mental health.
  • Create a Mental Health and Well-being policy, or update existing policies to ensure they are aligned to your values and objectives.
  • Plan a range of activities to deliver your key messages to the workforce to engage and educate employees and to remove any stigma associated with mental health.

Zeal Solutions offers a Culture Assessment to organisations interested in understanding their culture, the impact it has on the mental health of the workforce and developing a strategy to improve it.

Step 2 – Invest in your leaders

Every employee can influence an organisation’s direction, but leaders by far have the biggest and most direct effect on an organisations culture and the mental health of the workforce.

Leaders are uniquely positioned to demonstrate the beliefs and values of the company and reinforce the attitudes and behaviours that best reflect them.  They have the ability to guide and empower employees to achieve the organisation’s goals, and help individuals see the importance of their contributions.

Strong leadership and management is a key factor in ensuring good mental health and well-being in the workforce. For many people, the way they are treated by their line manager and the behaviour of other leaders in the organisation makes a big difference in the way they feel about themselves and their work environment.

Consider these steps to improve your organisation’s leadership and the mental health of your workforce:

  • Ensure senior managers are committed to making a real and positive difference to the mental health of the workforce. There is a direct and positive relationship between senior management buy-in and positive outcomes.
  • Train leaders to develop a strong sense of social capital through supportive team leadership. Creating and sustaining a culture of support is vital for achieving positive mental health at work. And leaders play a key role in reaching this goal.
  • Provide professional training to educate leaders on mental health, understand what causes of poor mental health, how to recognise individuals showing symptoms of poor mental health and how to support their team and hold conversations about mental health.

Zeal Solutions offers high-impact Leadership Training to support cultural change, effective management of teams and mental health.

Step 3 – Empower your workforce

To successfully promote positive mental health, the workforce needs to become more informed about mental health and what support is available if they, or a member of their team, experience mental ill-health.

Consider these steps to improve the mental health of your workforce:

  • Engage the workforce early on to help remove the stigma associated with mental health and show them that their contribution is important and valued.
  • Ensure the Mental Health and Well-being policy is promoted and well understood.  People need to know the organisation’s values, procedures and resources available should they have an issue.
  • Provide professional training to educate the workforce on mental health, understand what causes of poor mental health, build personal resilience and the skills and techniques needed to manage mental health more effectively.

Zeal Solutions offers Mental Health Awareness Training to develop self-awareness in the workforce and to help employees to take responsibility for monitoring and managing their personal mental health.

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