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Taking care of employee wellbeing and mental health is good for everyone

By Sandi Wassmer, CEO of enei

February 22 2024 - In our hectic and frenetic world, finding balance and maintaining good mental health is what we are all striving towards, but for many this can be a daily challenge. Every year, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue. As our working lives are frequently fast paced and demanding, it is incumbent on employers to have what is needed to support employee mental health and wellbeing.

Having a compassionate, nurturing and psychologically safe environment, where talking about wellbeing and mental health is the norm, is the foundation. This will ensure that those experiencing mental health challenges will be able to stay in work and be productive, whether that's someone experiencing a stress response to unrealistic deadlines or ongoing challenges for someone who has a diagnosed mental health condition. With 14.7% of people in the workplace experiencing mental health issues and 12.7% of sick days being attributed to mental health conditions, this is not something that employers can ignore.

Psychological safety in the workplace

There is a lot of talk about psychological safety and the ability to bring your whole self to work, but without the right support in place, these can play out in ways that are not as intended.

Psychological safety is fostered in a culture of inclusion, where everyone feels able to respectfully and appropriately express their views, put forward ideas, ask questions, raise concerns, and be able to make mistakes and learn from them without fear of judgement, humiliation or recrimination. This environment is not something that can be manufactured overnight and requires trust, respect and responsibility from both employer and employees, with shared values and goals at its heart. Alongside this, the concept of bringing your whole self to work is aligned with psychological safety and is about being authentic and human, with all of our vulnerabilities and imperfections, and not trying to be perfect or what we think others want us to be. It is not, as I have unfortunately witnessed, a free-for-all where people are able to use their freedom of expression to criticise or harm others. This is, in fact, the opposite of psychological safety.

When employees don't feel psychologically safe, the impact goes far beyond reduced productivity and increased sick days. If people don't feel safe or when the right support for their wellbeing and mental health is not in place, they tend to reach out to other colleagues to complain or gossip, and this will invariably adversely affect morale.

In psychologically safe environments, where the wellbeing and mental health of employees is an everyday consideration, employees feel able to express when they are experiencing mental health challenges through the appropriate channels and will be able to get the support they need.

How to support employee wellbeing in mental health

As organisations in the UK come in all shapes and sizes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a range of ways to support employee wellbeing and mental health, and employers will need to determine what works for them and what resources they have available to ensure that what they implement is sustainable.

    Strategy: having a separate wellbeing and mental health strategy or including it in your HR or business strategy is a great place to start.

    Leadership: it's your leaders who set the tone and priorities of your organisation, so they must lead by example, talk openly about wellbeing and mental health, and model these behaviours so that they filter throughout the organisation.

    Environment: ensure that your workplace is one where people can openly talk about wellbeing and mental health. As part of the cadence of weekly one-to-ones, managers should check in on employee wellbeing, understanding workloads and pressures, and exploring what they can do to support.

    Training: providing training for all staff, with specific training for managers, in supporting employees' wellbeing and mental health is key. Many people do not have the comfort or confidence to talk easily about mental health and will need to understand how to do so in a way that is respectful, compassionate, and helpful.

    Resources: making sure that resources are available for all employees, as well as specific resources for line managers, will reinforce training and enable people to access information whenever they need it.

    Campaigns: using internal communications, whether this be through employee newsletters or all-hands meetings, to raise awareness about the importance of supporting wellbeing and mental health in the workplace and to let people know what you're doing about it is vital.

    Reasonable adjustments: under the Equality Act, anyone with a mental health condition that is deemed a disability is entitled to reasonable adjustments. However, it is good practice to provide this, whether or not the employee has a diagnosis.

    Mental health first aiders: training staff as mental health first aiders is a great way to ensure that additional support is provided outside of direct line management.

    Employee assistance programs: EAPs are a cost-effective way of providing support to employees both inside and outside of working hours.

    Private medical insurance: for those organisations that have the resources to do so, private medical insurers offer quick and easy access to a wide range of mental health interventions.

    Other benefits: benefits such as access to a mindfulness app, discounted gym membership, or dedicated mental health days can help contribute to overall wellbeing.

In our modern working world, the goal of all employers should be to ensure that everyone in their organisation has all the resources they need to thrive and flourish, and supporting wellbeing and mental health is an intrinsic part.

Sandi Wassmer

Sandi Wassmer



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