Employee Engagement – Tackling mental health in the workplace

Organisations thrive when employees are feeling good and functioning well. However, there’s a challenge, every week 1 in 6 adults are experiencing mental health problems, with depression, stress and anxiety the main challenges. Nearly half of all adults believe that at some point in their lives they’ve experienced a diagnosable mental health condition and the impact of COVID has taken its toll too, with ONS studies in November 2020 confirming that 1 in 5 adults believed they were suffering from depression.

No wonder there’s so much talk about mental health, it’s a big (and growing) challenge, so what can employers do to help their employees feel good and function well? The great news is, whilst it might feel like an overwhelming challenge bigger than any one workplace alone, there are lots of things that leaders and employee engagement professionals can do to help their workforces maintain their mental wellbeing.

Time to talk

Whilst employers are not experts and should steer away from diagnosing, there’s one aspect of supporting mental health that all experts agree on and that’s the importance of opening up and talking. There’s a challenge here though, surveys show that just 13% of employees feel comfortable to talk about their mental health at work (in fact this is lower than those prepared to talk about their sexual health at work!). This is where the workplace needs to work hard, leading mental health charity, Time to Change, aims to end the mental health discrimination by reducing stigma around the topic. For employees to feel open and honest about their mental health in the workplace, leaders and employee engagement professionals need to increase communication on the topic and reassure employees that it’s OK not to be OK. Celebrating events like Time to Talk Day or Mental Health Awareness Week can be good opportunities for organisations to show their support for mental health and get the organisation talking.

Making the most of EAP’s

A simple starting point is EAP. Many organisations have Employee Assistance Programmes with confidential helplines, but they are often under-utilised by employees. Perhaps EAPs aren’t used because there’s low awareness or because employees distrust the confidentiality, worrying that using them may impact their career prospects. A good starting point is to ensure great communication of the availability and confidentiality of the helpline numbers, reassuring employees that these helplines are there for them. Encourage Line Managers to promote and signpost to the helplines as well.

Signposting and resources

There are a plethora of organisations tackling the mental health crisis, charities like Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and have excellent resources for employers and employees alike. Employers can easily share and signpost their workforce to these resources with little effort, whilst also demonstrating their support.

Consistent and transparent internal communications

A major cause of anxiety is the extreme change organisations and the world are going through as a result of COVID. Not knowing the future can be very worrying but employers can help their employees through this change with consistent, clear, honest and transparent communications. Treat employees like adults, reduce the sugar coating and be honest about what you don’t know whilst filling in the gaps when you can to help reduce anxiety and stress levels. Organisations with poor internal communications focus or investment will be losing more than they think through reduced productivity.

Connecting with your workforce

And finally, with remote working and empty offices, it’s easy to see how quickly employees could start to feel isolated and disconnected from their organisations. It’s more important than ever for organisations to connect with their employees, Line Managers can reach out, leaders can be more virtually visible, simple things like a card can be sent to home addresses to ensure employees continue to feel valued and ‘seen’.

At Something Big, we’re experts in helping organisations communicate with their employees, from running company-wide internal communications campaigns to driving positive employer brand awareness to attract new talent. If you want to up your game in employee engagement and internal communications give us a shout.

This blog is part of a series on employee engagement, if you’ve found it useful please check out the rest of the series. In our next blog we’ll be looking at how employers can make sure employees are feeling valued and appreciated.