If you run your own business, then there is no doubt that you will have felt the huge impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health of your employees.

As a business owner you have a really important role in supporting staff wellbeing and promoting good mental health in the workplace.

This may seem like a daunting task right now but please don’t worry as we are here to help.

Here is our guide on how to promote workplace wellbeing and look after the mental health of your employees in 10 simple steps.

If at the end of this you still have questions then please don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing help@whitcombehr.co.uk or calling 07534 359255. Natalie is trained as a ‘mental health first aider’ and we also have a number of other resources that we can provide to help you with this sensitive topic.

Introduction to mental health in the workplace

Did you know that only half of people with mental health issues speak to their manager about it?

Work is a huge part of our lives so it is vital that while we’re working, we feel happy and healthy. When we think about the phrase ‘mental health’, we often think about mental health problems. We think of symptoms like low mood and conditions such as depression or anxiety. In fact, everyone has mental health and every one of your employees will have times when mental health is good – and times when it is less good.

Mental ill health is now the primary cause of long-term sickness absence for 1 in 5 UK organisations and with the outbreak of Covid- 19 this is naturally set to rise.

STEP 1: Look after your own mental health first

As a business owner and manager, your focus will always be on supporting your team in the workplace but it would be remis to forget that your own mental health is just as important. You have a duty to yourself and to your employees to make sure that you look after your own mental health at work which in turn will mean you can work more positively and harmoniously with everyone else in the business.

Try to treat mental health the same as you would physical health. You wouldn’t miss a run with a friend or a class that you had booked onto, but we all too often forget to stop and consider how our wellbeing is being effected by an ever growing workload and to-do list.

Take 5 minutes right now to stop and think about what it is that you need to do to help improve your mental wellbeing.

STEP 2: Create a wellness action plan

A wellness action plan is something that everyone in the business can use to begin regular conversations about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Your employees can create their own wellness action plan as a way to share what keeps them well at work and what might lead to them becoming unwell at work. They can be shared on a one to one basis with managers or as a team exercise to help open up about mental health in the workplace.

This doesn’t need to be complicated – it can be as simple as writing a list of 5 things that you want to do this week to try and keep on top of mental ill health or stress relating to work. Do what works best for your staff and don’t hesitate to ask for feedback and other recommendations on how you can best promote wellbeing in the workplace.

STEP 3: Invest in training

It is important that you invest in mental health training if you have not done so already. There are a number of charities and organisations that will come to you or provide online sessions for mental health training. Mental health workplace training will cover topics such as understanding triggers, the impact of stigma and tips for supporting others.

Did you know that Whitcombe HR can provide your business with mental health awareness training?

Please call 07534 359255 to find out more.

STEP 4: Show your staff that wellbeing matters to you

Showing your staff that their wellbeing matters to you is invaluable. From flexi hours to team building days trips to simpler gestures such as sending a thank you card to all of your team, don’t underestimate how much it means to people when you show them that you care.

For World Wellbeing Week we compiled a list of things that companies could do and in case you missed it, here it is again:

  • Organise a company bake off (who doesn’t want a whole cake to themselves?).⠀
  • Send a pack of seeds to everyone and see who can grow their plant the fastest (we would recommend sunflowers, chillies or even tomatoes).⠀
  • Provide stress management sessions to people that feel they need some extra support.⠀
  • Deliver care packages to members of staff that haven’t been able to go out during lockdown (flowers, fresh juice packs or a simple card could really make a difference to someone’s day).⠀
  • Arrange a day for everyone to break for lunch and take a full hour to sit and reconnect (this could be on zoom, social distancing at work or in the park – but make a point to take a real break from the working day and enjoy your lunch & time with your fellow colleagues).⠀

A little can go a very long way.

STEP 5: Make yourself and others available

Prioritise regular one-to-ones and catch ups with your team. Make sure you use this time to check how they are and talk through any difficulties at home or work. Knowing your team’s ‘normal’ outlook and activities will give you a frame of reference to spot changes. This will make conversations easier if problems do arise.

Why not appoint someone as a ‘mental health go-to’ who has been trained on mental health in the workplace? HR will always be able to help in matters of wellbeing and if you don’t currently have someone working in this position then perhaps now is the time to consider employing a Freelance HR Consultant to help.

STEP 6: Familiarise yourself with policies

Another thing that HR can help with is making sure you understand any policies your organisation has relating to mental health and wellbeing. This may include sickness absence and health and safety.

Make sure everyone in the company knows where to find these, what they include and what the process is if they ask for help.

Your company handbook should address such policies and procedures so do make sure that this is up to date and accessible to all staff.

For more information on company handbooks please visit our previous post HERE.

STEP 7: Get to know your team

One of the easiest ways to look after the mental health of your employees is to get to know them so that you can notice any changes in their behaviour. This may sound obvious but with the everyday goings on of a business it is easy to get caught up in your own world.

Make sure you are prepared to have a conversation about their mental behaviour or have someone in place such as HR to do this on your behalf. Mental health problems affect different people in different ways so the better you know them, the easier it will be to identify any problems.

Hold regular catch ups and host team building exercises so you can connect with your team as often as possible. Lock down has made it tricky to spend time with our colleagues face to face lately but don’t forget that there are plenty of fun ways to engage online – why not host a weekly wine and book club? Anything that will get you face time is a great way to help the wellbeing and mental health of your employees.

STEP 8: Implement wellbeing and mental health awareness every single day

Make sure that mental health is an ongoing topic within the company. It might help to add ‘staff wellbeing’ as a standing item at all team meetings, huddles or catch ups.

Allow for your staff to talk about how they’ve been doing, anything that may have affected their mental health or anything that may have helped throughout each working week.

Make sure that you are always asking for feedback and trying new things to make mental health the forefront of what you do to ensure workplace wellbeing.

STEP 9: Make reasonable adjustments

It is important that you consider making reasonable adjustments to accommodate how your employee works in order to help them with any disadvantages they may face.

Effective reasonable adjustments can support your employees to work to their full capacity. Be adaptable whenever you can whilst weighing out the effectiveness, practicality, cost and the resources your organisation has.

Ideas of reasonable adjustments you can make to help with an employee’s mental health could include flexible start and finish times, creating a quiet space for meditation or relaxation in the workplace (away from desks), increased supervision or peer mentoring schemes.

STEP 10: Prepare for return to work

As the figures show, there will be times when an employee needs time off because of their mental ill health. Making sure that you support their return to work is just as important as looking after their mental health whilst they’re at work.

You need good communication skills and making the most of your resources such as HR will ensure the matter is dealt with sensitively and professionally.

Before they return consider lighter duties or a phased return. It may help your employee to come back slowly especially if they’ve been off for a long period of time.

We can help!

We hope that you have found this blog useful. For more advice and help on this topic please don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing help@whitcombehr.co.uk or calling Natalie on 07534 359255.

As well as mental health awareness training we also have a wellbeing workbook, stress container exercises and other great resources to help with mental health in your workplace.

You can also follow us on social media under @whitcombehr where we provide weekly HR updates and advice on wellbeing and mental health in the workplace.