13 – 17 May 2019 is Mental Health Awareness Week
Over the last couple of years, the conversation around mental health has become increasingly open, and with that has come a greater emphasis on the impact of work on our wellbeing. In 2017, the Thriving at Work review estimated that poor emp
loyee mental health costs UK employers £42bn a year, and review set new standards for organisations to implement to better support their people.
When businesses are evaluating how they can better improve the mental wellbeing of their people, learning should play a key role in their strategy to prevent mental health issues in the workplace.
The role of learning
At a basic level, learning helps to alleviate stress caused by a lack of knowledge and gives employees the tools and techniques they need to better manage professional situations and their workload.
Throughout the course of an individual’s continual professional development, they should be learning skills that help them to manage themselves and others through difficult situations in a way that allows for progress towards a goal or objective.
Learning also helps employees to be mentally positive about their career. Not only does it show a company’s desire to invest in them personally, but many are also actively aware that learning further professional skills can support the progression of their career. Both can have a positive effect on one’s mental health.
The core standards for improving mental health in the workplace
The “mental health core standards” set out by Thriving at Work review encourage organisations to:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
- Develop mental health awareness among employees
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
- Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
- Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
Learning and leadership are central to implementing a number of these standards. By focusing on professional skills sets and the corporate culture, you can create an environment where you employees can thrive.
Professional skills central to improving workplace mental health
- Self-Leadership & Personal Effectiveness
It is vital for everyone to manage themselves effectively at work. By being effective, we can reduce the pressures of our workload and increase productivity. From time management and effective communication skills to developing resilience – by equipping our people with the right tools, we are empowering individuals to take leadership of their own wellbeing.
- Managing Others
How we lead others, teams and a business has a significant impact on the wellbeing of those people. It is therefore imperative that learning is focused on how empowering people to manage in a way that wins the trust and respect of their team whilst supporting the wellbeing of that team. By supporting professional development and workload management and effectively resolving conflict, managers can significantly influence the positive wellbeing of your people.
Creating a culture of supporting mental wellbeing
Almost one in three people have experienced mental health issues whilst in employment. People development programmes can ensure that staff members have the skills and knowledge they may need to help support a member of their team or themselves in a difficult situation in their professional career.
However, leadership can also change a culture within an organisation. According to the Thriving at Work review, there is strategic value in investing in mental health. Not only can workplace wellbeing programmes reduce stress, anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression once they occur, but they can also act as a preventative measure. In fact, every £1 spent can yield an ROI of up to £9 for employers.
There are a number of ways in which leaders can champion and live a range of initiatives:
- Promoting wellbeing
It’s recognised that one of the most important aspects of mental health initiatives at work starts with senior colleagues. Employees take cues from how leaders behave, which is why it is crucial that leaders openly recognise the importance of wellbeing within the workplace and develop an open environment for discussing mental health and wellbeing.
- Two-way communication
Poor communication can sometimes be a significant cause of stress. Staff become excluded from key knowledge and conversations if a workplace is not openly discussing and supporting initiatives and learning. Ensuring that staff are communicating openly and effectively with each other is key to ensuring a culture of supporting mental wellbeing.
- Work/ life balance
When employees have a poor work/life balance they can become burnt-out, tired and unmotivated. It is therefore important to encourage staff to:
- work sensible hours
- take full lunch breaks
- rest and recuperate after busy periods
- avoid working at weekends- especially from home
- take their full annual leave entitlement
Only 13% of staff would be comfortable talking about mental illness at work which suggests that there is still a widespread stigma attached to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Considering that so many of us are likely to be affected by mental health issues during our career it is therefore vital to create a culture of supporting mental wellbeing at work.