Mental Health at Work: Keeping the Conversation Going

The most important asset of any company is its people. All good employers and leaders will know this, and at Spurwing we provide strategic advice to many of our clients on internal communications for improved employee engagement, performance and retention.

Increasingly, we are also supporting companies to implement and raise awareness of Diversity & Inclusion (or D&I) programmes which are working to achieve a better, fairer workplace. D&I traditionally focused on gender, age, race, sexuality and disability, but today is an all-encompassing remit and covers health and wellbeing too, including mental health.

I recently attended an event on mental health issues in the workplace, hosted by BritCham and facilitated by Bloomberg’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion for APAC. Four speakers from a variety of sectors and perspectives gave their thoughts on how we can do a better job to ensure workplaces are accommodating, understanding and even acting as a positive influence for people with mental health issues.

How to create an inclusive environment

It’s well known that the pressures of work can often be the cause of mental health issues in the first place. The speakers shared tips and advice to help prevent mental health issues arising, from training to build resilience to raising awareness of crisis hotlines, counselling and practical and financial support such as Employee Assistance Payment (EAP). Internal communications and education about the options available can be built into existing training, such as inductions. Implementing regular employee wellbeing surveys provides an accurate picture of mental health in the organisation and a benchmark to improve upon.

I also learned that support for managers is key. These are often the people closest to employees and the ones they turn to, and there are tools available to equip them, help them look out for signs, offer support in a sensitive way and create a safe environment for their team.

Employers can create change and make the workplace a positive influence

It’s important that employers understand that work can be a means of rehabilitation too – providing a sense of purpose and building skills and confidence. It is therefore critical we play a role in encouraging people with mental health issues back into the workplace.

Encouragingly, my main takeaway from the event was confidence that employers are in an influential position to bring about change. This is even truer for communications professionals, where we can be the voices reminding business leaders, the media and the general public of the importance of creating an inclusive and supportive community.

This is not a new message, in fact workplace mental health was the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day and has been a trending topic in the media lately. But a trend is temporary, and we need to make sure the conversation continues past October and is embedded in every company’s plans to support and engage their current and potential employees. The fact that many multi-national companies are investing in D&I programmes is a positive sign, but the momentum needs to come from all across the business. This is where embedding D&I messaging into a comprehensive internal communications campaign is essential to keep employees feeling engaged and supported.

Most importantly, I would like to see widespread belief that mental health is no different to physical wellbeing. We need to view the condition as an illness, not a sign of weakness. And we need to make sure that everyone understands this, shares their stories and keeps the topic more than the message of the moment.

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