Is your business compliant? The Mental Health Framework for Thriving at Work

Now more than ever people need to feel safe and supported at work.

We need to create the conditions within every organisation where every individual is supported and enabled to experience the best possible mental health and wellbeing- so they can thrive at work and at home.

One of the problems is that when businesses start thinking about organisational mental health, they simply don’t know where to begin. While there is a lot of information available it can be difficult to decipher what the best approach is, and where to start

That’s where a seminal piece of work known as the ‘Stevenson / Farmer Review’, or ‘The Thriving at Work Report’ comes in. In January 2017 the then Prime Minister, Teresa May, commissioned an independent review into how employers can better support people in employment, including those with mental ill-health, to remain in and thrive at work.

Many business owners and leaders are still not familiar with this report – and it is as important and relevant in 2022 as it was when it was launched in 2017 – perhaps even more so. It is a great starting point for businesses who want to take action when it comes to employee mental health and wellbeing at work.

The report concluded that the UK faces a significant challenge with more than 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem losing their jobs each year (a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions) and 15% of people at work having symptoms of an existing mental health condition.

In summary the problem was found to be much bigger than first thought. And the more recent ‘Mental Health and Employers, Refreshing the Case’ report from Deloitte, demonstrates that the annual cost of mental ill health to employers has continued to rise – it is now costing UK businesses up to £45 billion per year. The business case for effective intervention is crystal clear.

The vision of the Stevenson / Farmer review is to reduce the number of people leaving work with mental health problems by 100,000 in ten years (bringing the number in line with physical health conditions).

To realise this vision, a set of ‘mental health core standards’ were set out - a framework for a series of actions that all businesses (with up to 500 employees) are capable of implementing quickly. For larger businesses (with 500+ employees) an additional set of ‘enhanced’ standards were created.

For the purpose of this article we will focus on the core standards which are believed to be well within reach of all businesses - and that all businesses should be aiming to comply with as a minimum. Here they are along with some practical steps you can take to implement them in your business from today;

1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan that encourages and promotes good mental health of all staff and an open organisational culture.

  • In your plan provide an outline of your approach to improving and protecting the mental health of all employees which includes your company mental health philosophy.
  • Include any awareness events and activities along with any existing support or training you have available.
  • Link your mental health plan with other plans in your organisation including your business plan, corporate social responsibility plan, supportive sickness absence policies, return to work policies and improving the physical workplace environment.

2) Develop mental health awareness among employees by making information, tools and support accessible.

  • Be consistent in communicating your mental health philosophy and plan internally within your organisation.
  • Appoint ‘mental health champions’ who are passionate about mental health and want to be part of making a difference in your workplace by raising awareness and supporting the promotion and growth of a positive mental health culture.
  • Offer MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) training to employees, managers and leaders who will be equipped with the tools to support employees who are experiencing mental health issues.

3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling, during the recruitment process and at regular intervals throughout employment, with appropriate workplace adjustments offered to employees who require them.

  • If you have an existing EAP (Employee Assistant Program) in place, make sure everyone is aware that it is available and how to access it.
  • Use a WAP (Wellness Action Plan) to support people with their mental health. This can be while at work or on return to work after a period of absence due to a mental health issue.
  • As covid restrictions lift, encourage staff networks for people who share common interests e.g. bike clubs, running clubs, curry clubs. This can create a more relaxed environment outside of work where people are more likely to open up about mental health with trusted colleagues.

4. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have healthy work life balance and opportunities for development.

  • Encourage line managers to check-in regularly with staff and find out what is causing employees the most stress.
  • Be aware of the impact of a healthy work/life balance on employee mental health. Lead by example and wherever possible avoid working at weekends and late into the evenings as much as you can. If you are a leader or manager, it is important for company culture to set a good example for others to follow.
  • Consult your employees and include them where possible in key decisions to make people feel valued and represented, giving people a sense of control and autonomy.

5. Promote effective people management to ensure all employees have a regular conversation about their health and well-being with their line manager, supervisor or organisational leader and train and support line managers in effective management practices.

  • Make sure all managers and supervisors have regular conversations with employees so that they have the opportunity to raise any issues.
  • Offer additional training for line managers which is suited to specific practices within your organisation or industry. Resilience, stress management and advanced communication training have been shown to be effective. All line managers, as a minimum, should be given basic mental health at work training.
  • Give and receive feedback as part of a continual development process to help to find any problems early on.

6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and well-being by understanding available data, talking to employees, and understanding risk factors.

  • Carry out a survey at regular intervals throughout the year to measure employee mental health and well-being and identify any problems which are specific to your business.
  • Create a working culture you can be proud of by taking appropriate positive action on the findings of your surveys.
  • Use any existing data you have such as sickness absence data to spot problems and focus any support.
  • Consider mood trackers and other apps or tools to improve the communication and connection between employer and employee.

Together as leaders, businesses and human beings; let’s build back better.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can implement the Thriving at Work ‘mental health core standards’ in your business, as part of a wider mental health and well-being strategy then please contact us at info@mhib.co.uk

Mental Health in Business

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