Being mentally healthy at work matters; it is about employees making the most of their potential, being aspirational, having control over their work and feeling competent about their tasks.

Ultimately, mental health can influence how employees think and feel about situations and themselves, and how they behave. We know that the way in which work is managed and the way in which employees are led can have a huge impact on employee mental health, and through helping leaders to develop a greater awareness of mental health at work, this will enable organisations to be in a much stronger position to protect and promote individual as well as collective health, well-being and performance.

With this in mind, there is a real need for organisations to support leaders and managers in being able to play a more proactive role in creating mentally healthy workplaces.

What we did

Commissioned by NHS Employers, we implemented a research project to help understand the areas of concern and gather the necessary evidence to inform the design, delivery and evaluation of a bespoke training intervention to assist NHS organisations in creating a mentally healthy workplace. Using the evidence collected from interviews conducted with a sample of leaders, alongside data gathered through an ‘understanding mental health’ online survey , three key areas were identified and formed the focus for the training intervention: a) raising awareness of mental health and what is meant by a mentally healthy workplace; b) providing tools and tips for managing others with mental health problems; and c) developing a better understanding of what can be done to manage one’s own mental health. The content of the one-day training programme was tailored to address these three areas as well as being designed in line with three key underpinning psychological principles which support best practices in training and development. These principles are: 1) developing a growth mindset which enables leaders/managers to seek out opportunity for creating a mentally healthy workplace; 2) establishing individual and collective confidence in dealing with mental health at work; and 3) focusing on whole person learning, which is about ensuring leaders/managers consider learning within the organisational context and are able and ready to transfer their learning. The training also  used realistic scenarios to support discussions about mental health; the use of scenarios has been shown to be an effective way of ensuring the relevance of the training content is fully understood and supports the transfer of learning back to the workplace. In addition, trainers and delegates were provided with access to additional high-quality resources (e.g., articles, screencasts and assessments) to support training delivery and to increase the probability of success of the programme.

Following a successful pilot of the training programme, a series of ‘Train the Trainer’ events were convened, enabling the training to be delivered to approximately 100 trainers from over 80 NHS organisations. Ongoing support was provided to trainers to ensure they were confident in their delivery of this programme locally within their Trusts/organisations. In addition, we designed pre and post-training evaluation questionnaires which were used by trainers during their local delivery of the programme and returned to us for analysis. This enabled data to be collected from over 1385 delegates and allowed us to monitor the quality of the local delivery of the programme, as well as providing useful feedback about the training content.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, we were able to identify the areas of concern relating to creating mentally healthy workplaces within NHS organisations and use this to develop a bespoke and tailored training intervention aimed at leaders. The evaluation data revealed an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the training programme and the approach taken:

  • 94% of delegates felt the training was very relevant to their job role
  • 93% of delegates really enjoyed the training
  • 92% of delegates felt that the training enabled them to share professional experiences with colleagues.

Importantly, the evaluation data showed that the training intervention had a significant and positive impact on delegates perceptions of their own confidence (capability) to deal with various mental health concerns. It also encouraged delegates to appreciate the value of employing and managing staff with mental concerns within the workplace and reduced any negative views which may be held about the capability of those members of staff.

The qualitative comments provided further support for the positive impacts of the training programme:

“Excellent course, very beneficial to my current role and will help me to develop when faced with stressful situations that may arise in the future.”

“Very useful and in-depth. I feel I am going away with helpful tools for dealing with & contributing to a healthy workplace.”

“Very interesting and rewarding. This course has helped me in a difficult time in my life (work-related) and I feel more confident as to how to approach this with my manager.”

At Zeal, we believe in strengthening people and organisations. Through our understanding of the science of human behaviour and experience of the workplace, we help organisations strengthen their people, teams and leaders to create healthier, happier and more productive workplaces.
What makes us different is we’re psychologists with business in mind. We are passionate about the use of psychology in the workplace, and aim to enhance individual and organisational health, well-being and performance.
Contact us for more information about our practical tools and the bespoke services we can offer to your organisation, or alternatively email us at or call us on T: 01159 932 324.

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