Service: Human resources 

Topic: Mental wellbeing 

Building a supportive environment: Integrating wellbeing into your workplace culture

By Howard Wallis

18 May 2020

Today (18th May) marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020; a week dedicated to raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues, aiming to eliminate the stigma around this topic. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, this year’s theme is kindness. 

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said, “We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. And we want to start a discussion on the kind of society we want to shape as we emerge from this pandemic.”

In support of this cause, we are releasing various articles and content pieces to raise awareness and drive conversation. 

Mental health problems are a major cause of absence from work, both long and short term, with one in four people experiencing mental health issues in their lifetimes.

Therefore, building a working culture which integrates mental health support is a critical factor in ensuring your teams’ wellbeing, job satisfaction and productivity at work. 

So, how can you start to integrate mental health and wellbeing support into your company culture?

Policy 

First and foremost, implementing policy demonstrates a commitment to your employees to support their wellbeing.

Review your absence policy 
If you have an employee that has taken time off due to poor mental health, their return to work can be an important milestone in their recovery, says Mind.org. Ensuring that there is a process in place that allows individuals to approach their return to work in an appropriate and tailored manner is crucial and will help to secure a positive trajectory for their transition back to working life. 

Consider investing in an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
An EAP is a benefit that some firms offer to their teams. It gives employees access to confidential counselling and advice on any matter, work or personal. The confidentiality often gives individuals the confidence to seek the advice that they may need.  

Procedure 

Having appropriate policies in place is a great first step, but tangible training and awareness are equally important.  

Provide training and resources to managers 
Team leaders that are equipped with this knowledge will be able to spot early signs of mental health issues and act quickly to help provide some intervention. 
It may be worth investing in sending some key managers on courses led by certified trainers, such as the Mental Health Foundation. 

Provide your wider team with resources 
Equipping your team with the tools to manage their own mental health will ensure that they can maintain their wellbeing, contributing to a happier, more productive team. Additionally, colleagues or teams that often work together may be more likely to recognise the signs of mental health problems in each other. 

Raise awareness of your policies
According to St John’s Ambulance, less than 20% of employees are aware of mental health and wellbeing policies in their workplace, so raising awareness is vital. This could be done in a multitude of ways, such as including it in your onboarding process to inform all new-starters and running an internal communications campaign for your existing employees.

Culture

We have previously discussed the importance of a positive working culture and placing importance on mental health and wellbeing is a key part of building a positive environment. 
According to Time-to-change.org, 90% of people with mental health issues have experienced stigma in their lifetimes. Additionally, there are still some reports of workplace discrimination, so it is unsurprising that many of those who experience mental health problems are reluctant to talk about it.

By encouraging continual conversation around the topic, employees will know that they are valued as individuals, rather than ‘cogs in the wheel’.

What are we doing at Gerald Edelman?

At Gerald Edelman, we have recently appointed two new Mental Health First Aiders to promote the topic throughout the year. Their work is already underway as they are providing the team with weekly updates, providing advice on how to manage wellbeing during the Covid-19 crisis.

We also have a company funded support line which gives our employees access to free counselling and mental health support. 

Conclusion 

Although we are working towards eliminating mental health stigma, we still have some way to go. 
Promoting a cultural shift in your company and placing real importance on mental health is threefold; implement policy, follow up with procedure and consolidate with a supportive culture. 

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