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Blog • 17.01.24

Managing mental wellbeing in the workplace

Jane Mason
HR Consultant

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In recent years the stigma associated with mental health and mental wellbeing has changed a lot. The barriers have been broken down when it comes to talking about this and as a society we are, rightly so, more understanding and open to supporting what this means for people both mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet managing mental wellbeing in the workplace can still be a challenge. Managers can find it confusing trying to understand and say/do the right thing in order to effectively support people in the workplace and this can lead to the decision of taking no action due to a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

I’m not sure where to start…

Lucky for you, this is where SafeHR come in.  We can talk you through scenarios, how best to structure and facilitate conversations and we can advise on ways to support, including potential reasonable adjustments you could make.

That’s great, but where do I start, I hear you say…well as they say in the song, the very beginning!   I will start by setting out the key differences between mental wellbeing and mental health and I will outline things to consider when managing mental wellbeing in the workplace, because despite how it may feel…there really is no need to avoid these conversations!

What is the difference between mental health and mental wellbeing?

Both mental health and mental wellbeing can mean slightly different things to different people.

Mental wellbeing can be about lots of different things e.g.

  • how effective we feel we are being at achieving our set goals and aspirations
  • how fulfilled we feel and whether we feel we have a strong sense of purpose and ability to connect with friends, family and colleagues
  • how well we are coping with daily life
  • how content we feel.

An important thing to remember as a manager is that just because a person has good mental wellbeing, doesn’t mean that they don’t have a mental health problem; a person may live with a mental health problem but have good wellbeing right now.

Mental health is the way we think and feel about our ability to deal with different situations and varying ups and downs.  Mental health is something that we all have.  It doesn’t stay the same and it can change as we move through life due to changing circumstances and/or significant challenges.

People can enjoy good mental health and have a sense of purpose and direction, the energy to do things and deal with challenges and ups and downs as and when they arise.

In contrast however a person may demonstrate symptoms and signs such as:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Increased emotion
  • Low mood
  • Suicidal thoughts

The above can all prevent a person from feeling that they can get on with their life and/or make effective decisions, in the workplace this may be demonstrated through:

  • Absences from work
  • Outbusts of rage, anger and/or upset
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of attention to detail

Workplace Triggers

Maintaining an awareness of your team’s mental wellbeing through regular 121 meetings, ad-hoc discussions, appraisals and regular employee engagement surveys is essential.

For many people, they spend as much time in work as they spend out of it, the impact of work itself can therefore play a huge part on a person’s wellbeing, the following areas can often act as workplace triggers:

  • Relationships at work
  • Work related decisions
  • Availability of required tools and resources
  • Employee engagement
  • Unrealistic deadlines/workload
  • Poor work life balance

As managers we should consider these areas and ensure we address them on a regular basis, giving your team the ability to open up about their concerns and access to your time.  Where people feel they can talk to you openly about mental health, things are much less likely to build up and escalate.  As a result, where changes take place; good, bad or indifferent it is important that you:

  • Maintain an awareness of how your team are responding to change etc.
  • Welcome a conversation early, encouraging openness and transparency from all parties
  • Remind your team that your door is open to discuss anything that may be playing on their mind
  • Be supportive, non-judgmental, and empathetic.

Whilst we are looking specifically at mental wellbeing, it would be naive to think of this in isolation, there is a clear correlation between mental wellbeing and mental health. As a manager, if you support one, you are inevitably supporting the other. When your team feels supported, they are much more likely to feel engaged and an engaged team will feel more confident in opening up about and dealing with concerns.

Improving employee wellbeing

As a small business the impact of people falling ill for any reason is significant, acknowledging the importance of employee wellbeing and supporting this whilst looking at ways to foster a more productive and healthy work environment is essential and can have a real impact on your business.

You will be pleased to hear, this is not all about throwing vast amounts of money at things, many of the options outlined below are low cost or often free, it is simply about people taking time and looking at ways to make positive changes:

  • Spend time outside e.g. encourage lunchtime walking or for remote workers set a team fitness challenge or a step challenge for the month.
  • Introduce standing hot desks
  • Train people to be mental health first aiders
  • Offer employee wellbeing days where they can do something to focus on themselves
  • Celebrate employee success
  • Offer flexible working
  • Provide an Employee Assistance Package (EAP)
  • Provide healthy snacks
  • Allow people to bring their dog(s) to work
  • Staff surveys.

In summary

Mental health and mental wellbeing are a huge subject, that being said the key thing to take away is that it is good to talk. 

Create an open and transparent culture where people feel comfortable talking about mental health, encourage employees to voice concerns as this is actually a positive step in supporting, and hopefully improving workplace mental wellbeing.

The steps you can put in place do not have to be huge and costly, we understand that for small business that wouldn’t be realistic, however there are steps that can be taken to make a real difference.

Get HR Support

The HR Consultants at SafeHR are experienced in this area and are happy to help, so if you feel that there are positive steps that you could make and/or want to talk through how to implement and roll out positive change for mental wellbeing in the workplace please get in touch and don’t delay…the changes could make a real difference for your team!

Contact us today

Contact us today

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