Employee mental health & wellbeing

Does your organisation promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?

Question collaborator: InsideOut

EXCELLENT Answers

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There are more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before. In recent years, the proportion of workers that can expect to experience some form of mental health problem during their working lives has increased markedly. Mental health problems are a leading cause of illness and disability. Mental ill-health can have a significant impact in the workplace, whether a result of acute and severe ill-health, or milder ill-health.

Untreated mental health can lead to absenteeism (including due to poorer physical health), decreased work performance, negative attitude and behaviour, and/or poor working relationships with colleagues and clients. There are also several important intersections to this issue. For example, with women in full-time employment being twice as likely to have a common mental health problem compared to a full-time employed man. As such, wellbeing and mental health might also be considered through the lens of workplace diversity, and through organisational culture, as described below.

The Mental Health Foundation estimates that better mental health support in the workplace would save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year. Others, including the Centre for Mental Health estimate costs to be several times higher. Additionally, Deloitte's analysis of investments made in improving mental health show a consistently positive return on investment. There is a clear business case for organisations to equip themselves with a holistic approach to mental health in the workplace. Well managed businesses are likely to understand the importance of promoting awareness and of employing tools and processes to identify, address and prevent poor mental health caused or worsened by work.

The "invisibility" of poor mental health and illness makes it difficult for people to identify it in themselves and in others. Because mental health tends to be a sensitive and intimate topic, people affected are unlikely to feel confident to be forthcoming about their situation. Such discomfort in communication can strain the employee-manager relationship. Less than half of employees say they feel able to speak openly about stress with their line manager. One in four people even consider resigning due to stress. However, despite a push for transparency, in 15% of cases where the employee disclosed a mental health issue to a line manager, the employee became subject to disciplinary procedures, dismissal or demotion.

Mental illness is frequently viewed as a personal failure by the person affected, and this sentiment can be exacerbated by an unsupportive workplace culture. Without proper training and education on mental health, colleagues may be uncomfortable working with someone mentally unwell. Those affected may also hesitate to be open about mental health due to fear stemmed from a lack of confidence in one's own ability, and in how others perceived that ability. Employees may feel they need to conceal mental illness until they can prove themselves capable to offset the illness.

In addition to investment on employee mental health within the workplace, hiring practices can also reflect an organisation's commitment to a positive approach to this issue. Finding or returning to work and retaining a job after treatment for mental illness is often a challenge for those affected. This barrier can be attributed to the stigma surrounding mental health in the workers. Some employers may believe those with poor mental health will be bad workers, and as such, employers are more likely to ask for 'further information' when hiring. Additionally, about 50% of employers would not wish to employ a person with a psychiatric diagnosis. While there are more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before, 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions.

Solutions to create mental health positivity in the workplace depend on organisational environment and culture, training and education, and practical strategies and approaches to the problem. The Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers suggests implementation of 'mental health core standards' which include:

  • 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

The report also outlines a series of more ambitious 'enhanced' standards for employers who can and should do more
to lead the way, building on the mental health core standards these are as follows:

  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
  • Demonstrate accountability
  • Improve the disclosure process
  • Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help

Similarly, the Time to Change Employer Pledge seeks to encourage best practices and suggests a framework through which businesses and other organisations can identify and adopt better and best practices. The pledge is dedicated to seven principles which organisations have the ability to adapt them to their workplace:

  1. Demonstrate senior-level buy-in
  2. Demonstrate accountability and recruit Employee Champions
  3. Raise awareness about mental health
  4. Policies to address mental health problems in the workplace
  5. Ask your employees to share their personal experiences of mental health problems
  6. Equip managers to have conversations about mental health
  7. Provide information about mental health and signpost to support services
Mental health

Like physical health, 'mental health' fluctuates and exists on a continuum. Because each individual has their own experience with emotional wellbeing, mental health conditions and mental illnesses, mental health varies widely from person to person.

Mental illness

'Mental illness', like any medical problem, is a diagnosed condition that affects one's emotions, behaviours, and/or relationships and could cause challenges to social functioning. With proper care, these symptoms can be mitigated and even treated, giving those will such illness the ability to function well in their daily lives.

UK Equality Act 2010

The UK Equality Act 2010 protects against discrimination of mental disability in the workplace, as well as for other protected characteristics such as age, gender, sexuality, etc.

Wellbeing

'Wellbeing' can be defined by the emotional, social and psychological ability of a person to be happy, resilient, attentive, and manage emotions while lacking behavioural problems that affect their lives. Anxiety, depression and/or violence may be signs of a lack of wellbeing.

Answering YES

All Businesses MUST

Detail any policies and practices related to promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Explain how organisational culture and other practical strategies which relate best mental health and wellbeing practices are communicated to staff

Describe any activities and training designed to raise awareness and promote best practices within the organisation

Explain if and how these activities and policies are monitored and objectives measured

All Businesses MAY

State any philosophies or values which govern or influence the approach to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Discuss any practices the organisation is engaged in on workplace mental health and wellbeing external to the organisation

Explain how the organisation takes into account the potential effects that poor mental health may have on staff and co-workers

Provide examples of specific policies that protect against mental ill health caused or perpetuated by the workplace

Explain if and how mental ill health may have longer-term impacts on individual career development

Provide any other relevant information

Answering NO

All Businesses MUST

Explain why they do not or cannot answer YES to this question and list the business reasons, any mitigating circumstance or any other reasons that apply

All Businesses MAY

List any practices that are relevant, but not sufficient to answer YES

Mention any future intentions regarding this issue

DON'T KNOW is not a permissible answer to this question

NOT APPLICABLE is not a permissible answer to this question

Version 1

To receive a score of 'Excellent'

Promoting mental health and wellbeing is fundamental to our workplace. A holistic approach is taken, which includes policies and tools to identify, address and prevent mental ill health caused or worsened by work.

Examples of policies and practices which may support an EXCELLENT statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Transparent and widely communicated mental health policy, which include legal rights of those affected
  2. Assigning responsibility of mental health and wellbeing to a named individual
  3. Purposeful awareness and assessment of mental health risks within the workplace environment (harassment, discrimination, overwork, unrealistic expectations, job insecurity, isolated working conditions, inadequate child care, surveillance etc.)
  4. Commitment to evaluation and correction of work arrangements based on assessment conducted
  5. Solutions for enhancing energy at work, like providing healthy snacks, fresh water, and encouraging physical activity
  6. Work-life balance policies taken up by all staff, regardless of level or position
  7. Space for stress recovery is allocated (i.e. breaks throughout the day, take up of leave, encouraging healthy sleep habits, no emails during non-work hours)
  8. Actively hiring for those with affected by poor mental health
  9. No discrimination against the mentally ill for opportunities, promotion, and social inclusion, actively encourages their application and provides support during application process
  10. Build a strong support system for staff through mentorship schemes, shared work, and/or team activities outside work (i.e. volunteering)
  11. Spatial set-up encourages community atmosphere, instead of isolation, with good ventilation and natural light, while providing spaces where staff can work independently
  12. Everyone in every workplace can, and is encouraged to, speak up about mental health
  13. Training is required for managers and staff to help identify mental illness, to aid those affected to feel safe and welcome in the organisation, and address mental health stigma, especially cultural and generational sensitivities
  14. There is required training for managers to address needs of employees affected by poor mental health
  15. Encouraging return-to-work and unexpected leave plans of action in case of mental health crises
  16. The organisation includes mental health in employee engagement surveys
  17. Praciting employee engagement, including routine check-ins
  18. The organization offers support and a structured route to seek support
  19. Routine review of management responses to successes and failures, including reward systems and honest, objective of feedback
  20. Take up of sick leave and time away for appointments, etc. comes with an assumption of good faith-- no questions asked, no consequences
  21. The organisation routinely reviews job descriptions to assure realistic goals and expectations are set for employees
  22. The benefits package for staff includes support for mental wellbeing
  23. A support system (peer-to-peer, HR, third-party) is implemented in the organisation
To receive a score of 'Good'

Business demonstrates a commitment to promoting mental health and wellbeing with clear practices and policies in place to address multiple factors

Examples of policies and practices which may support an GOOD statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Transparent mental health policy, which include legal rights of those affected
  2. Assigning responsibility of mental health and wellbeing to a general health and safety officer
  3. Avoiding discrimination in opportunity, hiring or promoting practices and social exclusion
  4. Promoting strong support system between colleagues, but in an informal structure
  5. The organisation is open to discussing mental health, and encourages people to speak up if identified, but does not actively encourage it to all staff
  6. Training is available for staff and managers, but it is not required
  7. The organisation offers support, but there are not formal structures in place to seek it
  8. Some review of management responses to successes and failures, including reward systems and honest, objective of feedback
  9. The organisation writes job descriptions to assure realistic goals and expectations are set for employees
  10. Mental wellbeing programs are part of staff benefits package
  11. A support system (peer-to-peer, HR, third-party) is implemented in the organisation
To receive a score of 'Okay'

Business supports efforts regarding mental health and wellbeing on an ad hoc basis OR issue is not relevant or material to the organisation

Examples of policies and practices which may support an OKAY statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. Everyone in every workplace can speak up about mental health, but it is not encouraged
  2. Training for staff and managers is not currently available, but the organisation is working to build up this kind of program
  3. The organisation encourages those affected to seek support externally; there are no internal support systems in place
  4. No active review of reward and feedback systems, but there is a commitment to being honest and objective
  5. Take up of extended sick leave and time away for appointments, etc. is available with a doctor’s note
  6. The organisation avoids job descriptions that have unrealistic goals and expectations set for employees
  7. No formal support system is implemented in the organisation, but the organisation tries to foster a supportive environment through other, less formal means
To receive a score of 'Poor'

The business acknowledges performance is below expectations OR workplace deepens or perpetuates poor mental health OR there is no evidence of consideration of the issue

Examples of policies and practices which may support an POOR statement (not all must be observed, enough should be evidenced to give comfort that the statement is the best of the four for the business being scored):

  1. No internal policy specific to mental health and/or lack of communication of rights of those affected
  2. Normalisation of stress at work
  3. Rewarding practices of overwork
  4. Practicing intentional burn out as a means to filter (un)desirable workers (i.e. graduates)
  5. Actively avoiding hiring, opportunity, and promotion for those with mental illness and practicing social exclusion
  6. No attention to workspace structure and/or intentionally creating a spatially isolated workspace
  7. The organisation is not interested in putting resources toward training managers and staff on this issue
  8. Take up of sick leave and time away for appointments is not granted for mental health issues
  9. Job descriptions are intentionally unrealistic and expectations are often set high to encourage the highest caliber of hires
  10. The organisation does not actively foster a supportive or community environment in the workplace