Mental Health Awareness Week – how to prioritise mental health at work for employees

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Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 13-19 May, is an ideal time to think about mental health, tackle stigma, and find out how we can create a workplace that prevents mental health problems from developing and protects our employees’ mental well-being.

As businesses increasingly recognise the impact of mental health on productivity, engagement, and overall organisational success, HR professionals play a pivotal role in fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment. In this article, we consider the significance of Mental Health Awareness Week from an HR perspective and explore strategies to promote mental well-being in the workplace.

Understanding the Impact

Stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout are common challenges that employees may face, often exacerbated by work-related pressures, organisational culture, and personal circumstances. Recognising these challenges is the first step toward creating a workplace culture that prioritises mental health.

The CIPD’s Health & Wellbeing Survey 2022, showed the most common causes of stress at work. The top 4 factors were:

  • Workloads/volume of work
  • Non work factors – relationships/family
  • Management style
  • Non-work factors – personal illness/health issue

It states that half of organisations (51%) take a strategic approach to employee wellbeing, while 36% are ‘much more reactive than proactive’. As in previous years, mental health is the most common focus of wellbeing activity. Access to counselling services and employee assistance programmes remain the most common wellbeing benefits provided. Financial wellbeing remains the most neglected area.

HR’s Role in Fostering a Supportive Culture

HR professionals are instrumental in driving initiatives that promote mental wellbeing within the workplace. They serve as advocates for employees, ensuring that policies and practices are in place to support their mental health needs. Here are some key ways HR can contribute:

  • Policy Development: HR should collaborate with leadership to develop comprehensive mental health policies that address issues such as flexible work arrangements, carers’ leave, and access to resources like counselling services. HR can also support in ensuring that relevant policies are up to date with the latest UK Employment Legislation.
  • Training and Education: Organising workshops and training sessions to raise awareness about mental health and equip managers with the skills to support struggling employees effectively. Mental health Champions are an effective way to promote and encourage support at work. The charity Mind have created a Mental Health Champions Toolkit to support organisations to develop such a scheme.
  • Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs): Implementing and promoting EAPs that provide confidential counselling and support services to employees facing mental health challenges.
  • Promoting Work-Life Balance: Encouraging a healthy work-life balance by emphasising the importance of taking breaks, utilising holidays and avoiding overwork.
  • Creating a Supportive Environment: Cultivating a culture of openness and support where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health issues without fear of judgment or repercussions.

Initiatives to Promote Mental Health Awareness Week

The week itself is an opportunity for some specific initiatives to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to supporting mental health. Here are some ideas:

  • Virtual Workshops and Webinars: Organise virtual workshops and webinars focused on topics such as stress management, resilience-building, and self-care strategies.
  • Guest Speakers and Panel Discussions: Invite mental health professionals, advocates, or individuals with lived experiences to share their insights and stories, fostering empathy and understanding among employees.
  • Wellness Challenges: Launch wellness challenges focused on physical activity, mindfulness, or nutrition to promote holistic wellbeing.
  • Peer Support Networks: Facilitate the formation of peer support groups or buddy systems where employees can connect, share experiences, and provide mutual support.
  • Communication Campaigns: Launch internal communication campaigns using emails, newsletters, and social media to share resources, tips, and personal stories related to mental health.

Measuring Impact and Continuous Improvement:

It is also important to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health initiatives and gather feedback from employees. Regular surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one discussions can provide valuable insights into what’s working well and where improvements are needed. This feedback loop enables HR to refine future offerings or benefits and develop new initiatives, tailored to the evolving needs of employees.

For specialist HR support with any of these issues, please contact Helen Couchman in our team on 07799 901 669.