What Policies Should an Organisation Have in Place to Support Mental Health?
Welcome to our new online series on Mental Health in the Workplace. Taking care of our employees’ mental health is vital and we’ve brought together some of the world’s experts on this topic to share their thoughts with you.
Our panel of 10 specialists will tell you everything there is to know about supporting your staff when it comes to their mental health in your place of work.
The mental health needs of each individual will be different, which is why employers should create policies and offer benefits that address the breadth of the problem. In the end, no set of policies and benefits can eclipse culture. This is why employers should focus on building a culture that removes the stigma of discussing mental health in the workplace and creates guidelines for business conduct (work-life balance, after-work emails, etc.) that help reduce stress. Also, employers should make sure their health plan options provide adequate mental health coverage so those who need help can get it.
Nick Patel, CEO of Wellable.
The key to having a progressive and functional mental health policy is having an effective
management development programme. This means having regular training sessions that provides
managers with advice on how to spot if someone on their team is experiencing an issue and ensuring
they know how to approach them correctly. It is also important that company policies, such as
absence reporting, are aligned with an open and supportive culture which is inclusive and supports
Renae Shaw, Head of HR at Search Laboratory.
Improving access to mental health care is about removing barriers and promoting communication without forcing or “outing” employees. Common barriers include lack of insurance coverage, distance to providers (thus causing interruptions to life and work routines), limiting or discouraging leave time, working parent programs, etc.
Dr. Lee Keyes, is a Psychologist and Emeritus Director at the University of Alabama.
An organisation should think about the policies and practices you have that interact
with staff wellbeing and should:
- Find out if you have clear policies to support wellbeing and manage stress. These should set out the organisation’s approach to: promoting wellbeing for all staff; tackling the causes of work-related mental health problems like stress and anxiety; and supporting staff who are experiencing mental health problems.
- Check that mental wellbeing is at the heart of other policies relating to staff wellbeing such as: health and safety, working time, sickness absence and return-to-work.
- Review policies for performance management, disciplinary action, recruitment, change management and redundancy to ensure they take account of the impact these processes can have on employees’ mental wellbeing.
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind.
The best support strategies should normalise conversations around mental health and have buy-in from the whole organisation, including CEOs and leaders. We all have mental health needs and they should be reflected and echoed in all policies and initiatives. Encouraging work-life balance and supporting mental health champions in the workplace demonstrates a commitment to improving the mental health of everyone. Training managers to confidently support their employees and colleagues is essential. Businesses should consider providing emotional literacy interventions, which provide sessions on self-awareness, empathy and relationship building to staff. At Nuffield Health, 94 percent of employees who took up emotional literacy training said they would feel confident supporting a colleague showing signs of emotional distress. Businesses can introduce Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPS), often offered with group risk products like Income Protection, for those who may need more advanced support.
Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health
The sort that doesn’t distinguish mental ill-health from any other illness. It’s important that these policies are transparent, open, and endorsed by the employees that they govern. They need to encourage direct and open discussions around the topic.
Shona Davies, Founder of Shona Davies Consulting.
Mental health is highly individual, what can work for one person might not work for another. For that reason, the policies that work best are those that cater to the full spectrum of employee wellbeing and move away from the rigid and meaningless tick-box exercises that a traditional wellness programme is typically associated with. They must be holistic, tailored and adaptable.
Chieu Cao, Co-Founder of Perkbox.
The first step is simply having a visible mental health policy as many companies still don’t have one in place. A mental health policy for the workplace defines the vision for improving the mental health of the workforce and establishes a model for action. The World Health Organisation stresses that a well formulated policy ‘will also identify and facilitate the agreements needed among the different stakeholders in the workplace.’ This is key, as often a lack of responsibility and ownership leads to ineffective policies.
We recommend having a read of the WHO’s guidelines for formulating a mental health policy in the workplace as they are comprehensive and research led.
Lucy Faulks, Co-founder of Elevate.
The best mental health policies are those that give a clear statement about the employer’s commitment to supporting mental health and well being in the workplace. Employees will only begin to talk about their mental health issues if the working environment feels safe and supportive. The policy should make employees aware of what support is available and give examples of reasonable adjustments that can be made. It should be supported by awareness training for all staff.
Paula Whelan, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Right Track Learning.
We are an organization that doesn’t like policies, but we have a lot of best practices. For example, employers should look to provide PTO that can be used for mental health days, so if I’m struggling with stress and just need a day off, then I can take that. Employers need to always consider the impact on people with every decision they make.
Nicole Thurman, Vice President, Talent Management at CHG Healthcare.