Mental Health in the Workplace: featuring Mind

3 in 5 employees have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by charity Business in the Community. Stigma and misunderstanding about mental health issues in the workplace still remain and increasing awareness can help build a more open and inclusive working culture.

In this context, we had a chat with Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, the Mental Health charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

Emma joined Mind in 2007 and, since 2010, has led Mind’s campaigning for mentally healthy workplaces – playing a pivotal role in thought leadership to position mental health in the workplace as a key priority for employers and Government.

She has led culture change through engagement with employers, health and safety professionals, HR audiences and Government on mental health in the workplace and back-to-work support for people with mental health problems. She also supports networks of employers and stakeholders to share best practice and develop business-to-business peer support. Emma has worked in the disability sector since 2005 and previously worked for Mencap, the learning disability charity.

ADLIB: From your perspective, why is the recognition of mental health at work so important?

Emma Mamo: The Thriving at Work report stated that poor mental health costs the UK economy up to £99bn every year. £42bn of this is as a direct cost to employers lost through sickness absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.

Positively managing mental health underpins good employee engagement and benefits everyone – employees, employers and the bottom line. Making changes that have a positive impact on employees’ experiences at work are integral.

The Thriving at Work review also found that people with long-term mental health problems were leaving jobs at twice the rate of colleagues who don’t have mental health problems. Whether this was because they felt unsupported by their employer or unable to access suitable treatment, the human cost cannot be ignored.

Promoting good mental health at work is also a key part of being a responsible employer that values the contribution of their employees. Forward-thinking employers recognise the benefits of recruiting and retaining a talented and diverse workforce, including people who might be experiencing a mental health problem.

ADLIB: How can managers/directors actively support and encourage positive mental health in the workplace?

Emma Mamo: Recent research shows that good management is linked with good health, wellbeing and improved performance among staff, whilst poor quality leadership has been linked with stress, burnout and depression. Senior leaders should support line managers by providing training and development opportunities so they can successfully manage and support their teams.

It’s also essential to recognise that culture comes from the top and that training alone will not deliver results if the culture of an organisation is not supportive and empowering. Therefore, the need to prioritise staff wellbeing and invest in these approaches must be established by senior management and then implemented across the whole organisation.

Many of the approaches line managers can take to support staff wellbeing are straight forward and do not have to cost, such as asking simple, open and non-judgmental questions about an individual’s mental health and giving staff an opportunity to communicate what keeps them well at work.

ADLIB: How can we ensure that workplaces are educated on mental health problems in order to recognise the signs?

Emma Mamo: Training managers need to recognise mental health problems and support staff will help maintain employee wellbeing. However, it’s important to remember everyone’s experience of a mental health problem is different and there may be no outward sign – this is why it’s so important to create an environment which encourages conversations.

Organisations should support managers to work together with staff to develop a Wellness Action Plan to proactively manage their mental health. This allows people to plan in advance and develop tailored support for a time when they’re not coping so well. It also helps to structure conversations between manager and employee – leading to practical, agreed steps which can be reviewed on a regular basis.

All staff should be offered a Wellness Action Plan. This sends a clear message that employee wellbeing matters to the organisation and encourages early disclosure.

ADLIB: How can business owners work together to reduce work-related anxiety?

Emma Mamo: All organisations need to take steps to proactively support employees with their mental health. It is vital that organisations come together to share best practice and develop their understanding and approach to workplace wellbeing.

To help achieve this, we have launched a Workplace Wellbeing Index which will enable employers to celebrate the good work they’re doing to promote staff mental wellbeing and get the support they need to be able to do this even better. The Index is a benchmark of best policy and practice and will publicly rank employers on how effectively they are addressing staff mental wellbeing.

Thanks so much for sharing, Emma!

This article is part of our “work and life balance” initiative, which is all about the conscious step of “putting people at the centre” and utilising them as your greatest asset in order to increase productivity and happiness in the workplace.

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