Workplace Wellbeing Initiatives – Helping Your Employees, or Not?

Are you an employer, or working in human resources? And have you started workplace wellbeing initiatives, but aren’t sure they are working? They might not be.

The rise of mental health and workplace wellbeing initiatives

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s latest Labour Force Survey show that up to 49 per cent of all working days lost are due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, not lack of physical health.

And companies are taking note and offering more than just a free gym membership. According agency ‘Employee Benefits’, 59 per cent of companies now provide mental health first aid training.

So why are employees still afraid to speak up? 

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Employees still aren’t talking about mental health

A 2019 UK study by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, titled “The Importance of Mental Health Strategies in Attracting Top Talent’, talked to 3,000 professionals.

It noted that 76 per cent still felt uncomfortable talking about mental health at work. 82 per cent felt they would be perceived badly, 78 per cent still felt it would affect future prospects, and 69 per cent felt they then wouldn’t be trusted.

Mental health and wellbeing initiatives are all well and great. But if you have not made mental health a positive conversation in your company, or have not worked to give employees the right language, or have not created an environment where employees feel comfortable participating? Then they can seem not much more than a token.

When are you starting the conversation?

Or are you starting the conversation at all? The Robert Walters survey also found that–

“More than three-quarters (79%) feel that if managers make it clear that mental health is a priority, this would be highly effective in encouraging conversations around mental wellbeing at work; however, only 36% of respondents in management roles think this approach would have an impact.”

Do you mention your mental health policies in the recruitment process, making it clear that the conversation is open?

And do you note your wellbeing approach in job adverts? Or are you leaving interested parties to find out about your wellbeing initiatives through employer review sites?

How can you improve your workplace wellbeing initiatives?

Mental health and wellbeing initiatives are not just about offering a talk or workshops, but need to be approached holistically.

Consider the following:

1. Workplace culture.

How healthy is your workplace culture? Do you foster competition and overworking? Overlook secrecy and discrimination? Or do you encourage work/life balance, positive motivations, and honesty, and not just on paper?

2. Workplace environment.

Is your work environment healthy, or not? Is there anywhere staff can have privacy if required? Are work stations comfortable?

A study by retailer Staples in 2018 showed that over 80 per cent of office employees felt an attractive and well-functioning workplace had a direct influence on their mental health. 

3.Wellbeing education and skillsets.

Have you made your staff aware of mental health issues and how to talk about mental health? Are your managers trained in mental health skills? Or do you allow jokes about mental health? Do you focus on hiring a certain amount of staff with mental health skills who can help their colleagues, and offer these staff further training?

4. Management and relationships 

The 2019 Mental Health at Work report found that 33 per cent of those surveyed blamed workplace mental health issues on poor work relationships

Are employees taught good communication skills? Do staff feel comfortable talking to managers and human resources? Are managers leading by example when it comes to mental health awareness?

The same report found that only 57 per cent of employees felt that management was actually concerned about their wellbeing.

Are employees given opportunities to give feedback? As for job descriptions, are they clear, is there proper communication about roles and responsibilities? Or is lack of job boundaries causing employee stress?

5. Company policies.

Do you have policies to protect employee wellbeing, such as around bullying, harassment, mental health, and grievances?

But what’s the benchmark for wellbeing initiatives? Is there one?

In fact yes. Here in the UK you can now have your organisation benchmarked regarding your mental health and wellbeing initiatives.

The charity Mind UK has created a Workplace Wellbeing Index, a benchmark of best policy and practise, and invites companies to take part, as long as you have a minimum of 20 employees.

They assess the gaps between your approach to wellbeing in the workplace with how your staff perceive your efforts, noting where you are doing well, and offering recommendations for improvement.

What mental health and wellbeing initiatives work now?

When it comes to mental health at work, consider the following:

Harley Therapy now offers Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), workplace wellbeing consultancy, and in-house wellbeing workshops to make your workforce more positive and productive. Workshops are delivered by an award-winning team of psychology experts is led by our founder and CEO Dr. Sheri Jacobson.

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