On January 9th Theresa May pledged to tackle the ‘stigma’ of mental health and demanded that from a ‘moral and economic standpoint’ employers should join her. So where does this leave wellbeing and more specifically our role in the workplace?
Following the prime minister’s speech the government brought forward plans to complete a Green Paper on Mental Health. This will outline changes to services in education, for families AND the workplace. Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer are expected to:
Review employment discrimination laws
Outline new partnerships to make mental health a business priority
Define ways to improve mental health and,
Improve employers’ motivation to increase related productivity
77% of employees experience symptoms of poor mental health at some point (1)
29% of employees are currently diagnosed with a mental health condition (1)
Many of us have read these statistics several times, but only a small proportion have taken the time to deeply consider and proactively act on the impact it is having on our businesses. So, when will your tipping point come? Are you going to wait to until the new legislation arrives or be prepared and start building a strategy today?
We asked our community and clients what the best way to be proactive is. Three of their highlights are outlined below. For more insights check out Yoke’s latest whitepaper on the “essentials to building a healthy workplace”:
Real change won’t happen from a one-off wellbeing event or training day. Your initiatives will have real impact if you integrate them into a long-term plan. Starting small is good and we have noticed engagement builds when people see how an initiative fits with an overall programme over time. For example, attending an event on stress with the knowledge that my manager has already completed wellbeing training to support me, is powerful and genuine. The long term view offers a consistent space to involve your people and learn from them along the way.
It’s brilliant that mental health is finally having its moment, but remember that it’s not an isolated concept and instead sits within a holistic model of wellbeing. It’s important to educate your workforce with mental health skills, whilst also retaining awareness of the broader concept of wellbeing, including relationships, financial health and so on. Treating mental health in a wellbeing landscape will help everyone connect with what it means to them and support you to integrate it into your wider strategy. For example, considering how mental health links to your values, behaviours and performance objectives can help everyone prioritise it.
As May’s speech outlined, the answer to mental health at work is not about policies and procedures. No one expects organisations to take on this responsibility on their own. Instead we need to start creating a ‘shared society’ approach in which employers, charities, wellbeing providers and the government are working together on this issue.
Finding a helpful forum is a good way to build a support community and to discuss ideas across all industries. Doing this together will help provide us with “an historic opportunity to right a wrong” (Theresa May 2017).
1. BITC. Mental health at work (2016)