What does a mentally healthy workplace ‘look like’?
Where we are today
There are many great programmes across the globe that look to promote and support workplace mental health and wellbeing. Many of these focus on raising awareness of the issues, breaking stigma and letting people know that struggling with poor mental health is something we all experience at some time in our lives. They seek to upskill individuals and managers; to give them the tools, techniques and skills to recognise when colleagues are struggling and how to support them. They also cover how to build their personal resilience.
Organisations that take these approaches will see reduced sickness absence, presenteeism and employee turnover. They will probably see fewer accidents, mistakes, team breakdowns and rework. These are good things, but are they enough? Is the avoidance of the negative what we really need to be addressing?
Some organisations, however, go further and implement more comprehensive programmes which have the objective of creating a culture that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing, that allows all their employees to thrive. They provide information on how employees can improve and maintain their own mental health and wellbeing. This is a step forward, and any action that improves the experience of employees is to be applauded.
The risk is that unless these programmes are built on rock-solid foundations any gains may be short-lived. It is great to recognise the impact of stress and encourage people to raise concerns and say that they are struggling, but if the manager then continues to pile on more work, it is pointless.
The next step in the conversation is one of ‘prevention’, an approach that is centred around how we manage physical risk. It is right that risks to employee wellbeing and mental health should be assessed, reduced, managed or mitigated. It is a fundamental part of UK Health and Safety Legislation. Indeed ISO45003 Occupational Health and Safety Management – Psychological Health and Safety at Work : Managing Psychosocial Risks, is designed around this approach.
However, at Workplace Wellbeing Academy we want to move beyond the discussion about prevention. We want to flip the coin over and embrace the concept that building mentally healthy organisations is not only good for the individual but will improve business performance, value creation and success. These are outcomes that should be the aim of any Business Strategy, not just Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing.
We think that the right approach is to make Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing part of our organisational DNA.
A new model
Mentally healthy environments are positive places where everyone feels supported and able to do their best work, regardless of whether they have a mental health condition or not.
Organisational culture is made up of shared values, beliefs, and assumptions about how people should behave and interact; how decisions should be made and how work activities should be carried out. It is its personality and character
In developing this model, we have called on many studies across the globe and have selected areas of work which, if managed poorly can create risks to employee mental health and wellbeing but, if managed properly, will contribute to forming a healthy workplace culture.
Workplace mental health and wellbeing is fundamentally about putting people first. Our model has been developed on that principle.
Personal Drivers include:
- Personal Development – Are there opportunities for the individual to learn and develop?
- Recognition and Reward – Is the individual recognised and fairly rewarded for the work they do?
- Role Clarity – Does the individual know what is expected of them?
- Autonomy and Control – How much control does the individual have in how they go about their job?
- Work/Life Integration – Work and life outside work are part of who the individual is. How can they integrate with each other and how are conflicts managed?
Team and Community Factors include:
- Psychological and Social Support – What support is available if the individual is starting to struggle?
- Supportive Working Relationships – How are positive working relationships encouraged? Are issues of bullying or inappropriate language and behaviour addressed and resolved quickly?
- Workload management – Are issues of too much (or too little) workload managed effectively?
Leadership Enablers include:
- Leadership style – People-centred leadership vs transactional leadership.
- Inclusion and Diversity – Are an individual’s differences recognised as adding value to the organisation? Are people encouraged to be their true selves without the need to conform?
- Organisational fairness – Is the working environment perceived as being fair, either in terms of business practices and procedures, and/or the ways in which employees and managers interact. Are senior executives held to account in the same way as other employees?
Elements that cross boundaries include:
- Physical Health and Safety – Physical health and safety is the responsibility of everyone. It is easier for an individual to feel mentally healthy when they feel physically safe and are healthy.
- Communication – How well are people informed of any issues that may impact on them?
- Psychological Safety – Are individuals encouraged to bring their ‘whole selves to work? Are contributions encouraged and mistake treated as learning opportunities?
- Change Management – Change is the only constant. How well is change managed and the impacts on individuals considered, managed and mitigated?
In presenting this model we recognise that it is open to challenge and we positively encourage that debate.
If we are to move the discussion about mental health and wellbeing forward, so that everyone can benefit from mentally healthy working environments, we have to open ourselves up to challenge.
If you would like to discuss this in more detail or talk to us about how we help you apply this model to your organisation, please message me directly on LinkedIn or email me at email@example.com