Five tips for employers to support their staff’s mental health

With one in six people experiencing a mental health issue in a given week, supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace can no longer be ignored.

Here, Jaan Madan, Workplace Lead at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, shares five ways workplaces can ensure they are supporting their employees' mental health and creating a mentally healthy workplace.

1. Make sure leaders 'walk the walk'

Leading from the front and talking about the importance of good mental health helps create transparency around the issue. Crucially, it gives employees confidence that their wellbeing is taken seriously, and that discussing mental health at work is okay.

Business leaders can make an impact by sharing their own experience of how they manage stress levels, as well as demonstrating healthy behaviours such as leaving on time and taking regular breaks.

MHFA England's Workplace Wellbeing toolkit is packed with useful resources to help leaders start the conversation.

2. Empower managers to support their team's wellbeing

Managers have a unique role in ensuring employees are supported to overcome challenges with mental ill health as a first point of contact. They should be empowered to recognise the signs that a colleague might be struggling with their mental health and feel confident offering reassurance or signposting to further support. It's also important that managers are mindful of their own wellbeing and that, like senior leaders, they champion healthy behaviours.

Promoting regular conversations around wellbeing is vital and checking in regularly with members of their team, even if it's just a ten-minute conversation to ask how they are, could make all the difference to help someone open-up about their mental health. Many employers including Ford, WHSmith, Royal Mail and Deloitte are adopting Mental Health First Aid training as one key part of their workplace wellbeing strategies to give their managers the skills and the knowledge to offer more support in the workplace.

3. Remove pressure to be 'always on'

The pressure to be 'always on' can have an impact on our mental health. Research earlier this year showed that a third of people (32%) worry about work on their own time. And in a busy working world with technology at our fingertips, it's easy for employees to slip into bad habits such as checking emails late at night and over the weekend.

Reminding employees to take a break and encouraging them to switch off from work can help combat presenteeism to ensure they are more energised and motivated during the hours they do spend in the office. Some employers go further and prohibit employees from eating lunch at their desks or sending emails out of operating hours.

4. Incentivise healthy habits

We all have mental health just as we have physical health and they are both connected. A healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity are some of the key foundations of good mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, while eating well and avoiding too much sugar and caffeine are both helpful strategies to improve mental health.

There are a number of simple ways that employers can encourage employees to embed these as part of their daily routine. Providing fresh fruit, healthy company breakfasts or a fitness scheme with a local gym are all simple ways to encourage your team to look after their mental as well as their physical health.

5. Tools and tips

A range of emotional, physical and environmental factors can impact our mental health and we all deal with life's stresses and strains differently. It's important to provide employees with clear information to help them understand what mental ill health is, what the risk factors are, and the kinds of simple coping methods we can all use to better manage our mental health.

Through sharing resources employees can be encouraged and empowered to take ownership of their own mental health. There are a number of free and practical guides available from leading mental health organisations. Our Address Your Stress toolkit, for example, can help everyone to better identify the sources and signs of stress in their lives and take steps to help reduce its impact.

Through the 'Where's Your Head At?' campaign, MHFA England, Bauer Media Group and Natasha Devon MBE are calling for health and safety regulations to be updated so that first aid means mental as well as physical health. Find out more about the campaign and sign the petition at: http://www.wheresyourheadat.org/

To find out more about Mental Health First Aid training for your workplace visit: mhfaengland.org/organisations/workplace

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