Mental Health in the workplace needs MORE than just initiatives!

Mental Health In The Workplace Needs More Than Just Initiatives

Initiatives such as mental health days, mental health weeks and even mental health months have their place. The problem is that they can become a bit mundane. The risk is that they become part of the ‘tick-box’ exercise that we are trying to get away from. Even EAP’s (employee assistance programs) are not working any more (if indeed they ever did!). We discuss that in THIS article and it is also discussed HERE by the FT.

“If there’s one thing that’s evidence-based and proven to have a negative impact on people’s mental health, it’s a toxic workplace culture,”  – Josh Krichefski, UK Chief Executive at GroupM.

More than initiatives

For a business that is truly committed to the wellbeing of its workforce, the odd, ad-hoc initiative is simply not good enough. They strive to build a workplace environment that is a happy and productive place to be. They know that mental health initiatives will do nothing if there is a toxic workplace

Jenn Barnett, head of inclusion, diversity and wellbeing at accountancy firm Grant Thornton, agrees that nurturing wellbeing involves “a lot more than running initiatives”. Getting the culture right may even mean changing the criteria and methods used to select managers. “Not everybody is a people manager” with the skills to manage supportively, she observes.

Creating the right workplace

There are many aspects to creating the right workplace, a place where people are happy to come to each day. It is a long term commitment to your people and your business. Toxic cultures can take a long time to break and replace but this can never happen if you don’t get started. Below are some ideas on what needs to happen:

Remove fear

Fear is the starting point of any toxic culture. When people work and live in fear teamwork, productivity and a connected workforce goes out the window. It might be fear of losing their job, fear of reprisals for speaking up, fear of being embarrassed, fear of losing face or fear of being shunned by other members of staff.

The right leaders

A great workplace culture starts from the top and filters down. Hiring and training the right people in the right positions is key. Hire leaders with the skills to do the job, the skills to work with people and the empathy to understand their teams. Hire leaders not managers.

Flexibility is key

Life (and other staff) happens. It just does. When life happens your teams need to know that they are part of an understanding business who will be flexible to their needs. Implementing flexible working hours, being flexible when someone needs to go because of an emergency, or even just sending them home early occasionally so they can spend more time with their family.

The right team

The right leaders are key. However, providing those leaders with the resources to hire the right team members is also important. I know you’ve come across the team member who never wants to play ball, right? The one who will always stir up trouble, who won’t join in, who starts rumours, who slows things down. Your leaders need to latitude and resources to remove those people and get the right people in.

When initiatives DO work

When you have the right workplace culture, then initiatives work…. as long as they are ongoing. Mental Health First Aid is now part of HSE legislation which we discuss HERE. While MHFA is important, ongoing training and workshops for you entire team will hep them have the knowledge to help themselves. Start from the induction and onboarding process (discussed HERE) and carry it on. Stop waiting for a mental health day, week or month to come around. Provide resources that can reaccessed when needed.

Mental health in the workplace is far more than just initiatives, it’s a cultural process that needs to run through the entire business.

Click the links below to find out more:

The Workplace Mental Health Induction Workshop

The Workforce Mental Health Assessment

Mental Health First Aid Training

Mental Health Online Workshop Support Program

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