Elephant in the Room: Mental Health in the Workplace
Time to Talk Day is the perfect time for organisations to consider the mental health of their employees and how they can encourage conversation around the topic. According to the mental health charity Mind, at least 1 in 6 workers experience mental health problems such as anxiety and depression*. With so many people affected, what can companies be doing to ensure the wellbeing of their staff, and why is it so important?
It’s becoming increasingly recognised that being healthy not only involves our physical state, but our mental one too. In fact, when we have a good sense of wellbeing, we often feel better in ourselves overall; we might see improvements in our sleep, productivity, motivation and energy levels. With that said, companies should be prioritising the wellbeing of their employees by providing them with easy-to-access support and fostering an environment that encourages conversation and eliminates any stigma surrounding mental health. When this happens, it’s far more likely that the mental wellbeing of employees will improve. At the very least, they can feel like they’re not alone.
So, what can businesses be doing to support their workforce? At Diversity Travel, we believe that making support readily available should be at the top of the list. In 2019, we introduced a team of Mental Health First Aiders, a group comprised of Diversity Travel employees who act as a point of contact for anyone wanting to talk. The First Aiders encourage their colleagues to approach them if they are struggling, whether it be via email, a note through instant messenger or a chat away from the desk, and their own experiences often mean that they understand what others might be going through. “Talking about our mental health can be difficult, so it’s really important that our staff are aware that support is there if needed,” explains Paul Fletcher, one of our Mental Health First Aiders. “Having qualified Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace not only gives people a point of contact, it can also, in combination with other measures, help to reduce stigma by encouraging mental health to be openly discussed and supported.”
“Having qualified Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace can help to reduce stigma by encouraging mental health to be openly discussed and supported”
– Paul Fletcher, Mental Health First Aider
What’s more, all managers across the business are being given mental health awareness training delivered by Mind. With 15 having attended a training session in December, and another 20+ taking part in a further session this February, the aim is to make our management team more aware of the various mental health issues that team members may be struggling with. By doing so, they can offer improved levels of support and understanding whenever it is needed. To complement the help from other staff members, Diversity Travel also provides a number of materials to inform people about mental health issues, how they can identify these, and where they can go to for help. These resources are available both in the Diversity Travel offices and on the company’s intranet, meaning that anyone can access them at any time, from anywhere.
It’s also vital that mental health initiatives are not viewed as a box-ticking exercise, but rather as an effective way of managing negative feelings and promoting a healthy work environment. With that said, activities, sessions and events should be designed around the workforce, choosing strategies which are best suited to them. At Diversity Travel, the focus has been on planning events that the team members themselves feel to be beneficial, with the ultimate goal of boosting workplace happiness. Examples include holding Wellbeing Breakfasts, where people can socialise and eat delicious food before the workday begins, as well as Mindfulness and Resilience sessions, which are held by a representative from Mind. After each activity, Diversity Travel employees are asked to provide feedback on how they found it and offer any suggestions for the future. Other ideas in the pipeline include a lunchtime Walking Club, walk-in mental health sessions and after-work socials.
Wellbeing breakfasts are just one of the ways that Diversity Travel is encouraging conversation around mental health
Here at Diversity Travel, we hope that other companies follow suit and design a mental health programme that takes into consideration the specific needs of their team members. Ensuring that support is always available and promoting conversation around mental health is essential in letting people know that they are valued and cared for. After working with Mind and other mental health charities, we’re encouraged that workplace wellbeing will soon become a core part of all employers’ duty of care programmes.
*© Mind. This information is published in full at mind.org.uk