Mental Health in the Workplace FAQ
|Over the last three years, we’ve spoken to well over 1000 businesses about mental health in the workplace.
So we like to think we know a thing or two about the journey that the HR team, People team or Leadership team embark on when looking to bring a mental health strategy into the workplace.
We’ve heard pretty much every mental health in the workplace related question and concern that there is, and I want to share them with you alongside the answers that we give as a bit of a FAQ.
We’re not consultants, so you don’t need to take this as gospel, but these answers will form strong beliefs that we personally hold.
Our priority always lies with the individuals within a business, rather than the business itself, so that also informs our answers.
|We jump in the hot seat and answer some of your most common FAQs
Q: If I bring mental health services into my business, won’t everyone’s problems suddenly come out into the open? ?
Mental health isn’t only about problems and issues – it’s a large spectrum that covers every single thought, emotion and situation that we experience in our lives, good or bad.
That means that these conversations are already happening within your workplace, whether you realise it or not.
Businesses can ignore this, but mental health will be showing up in many different ways already, so we believe in giving people a space to have the conversations they’re already having in a more contained way.
And if people are having issues, we also believe it’s important to give them a space to work through these before they potentially get worse.
Q: Will more of my time get taken up now that people want to talk about their mental health? ⏱
Most likely, but that’s not a reason to try and keep the mental health conversation quiet.
Better to give people the spaces that they need, and should this start happening as a result, cross that bridge when it comes to it.
Maybe it means hiring someone else into your team or an onsite therapist or coach.
Q: What if people realise they’re not happy here and want to leave? ?
It’s entirely possible that by giving someone a space to learn more about themselves and their mental health needs, that they may realise their current situation isn’t serving them in the best way.
But, a business isn’t doing anybody any favours by keeping people in positions they’re unhappy in. The best thing for the business and for the employee is for someone to be in the role who wants to be there.
Q: Where should I start with a mental health strategy? ?
Every business is different and needs to start at a different point with their strategy. Some have nothing currently in place, and want to make a bold statement from the off with a grand programme that caters to everyone’s needs and is very out in the open.
Others want to start slower, building more of a foundation and general awareness first, before working up to a large programme.
If you’re not sure where to start, why not ask your people? Anonymous pulse surveys can be a good way to find out what the general feel in the company is, and what people feel is missing/what they’d like to see.
Failing that, given the sensitivity of the mental health topic, there’s no need to rush it. Starting small with things like Mental Health First Aid and some mental health talks / workshops can be a good way to launch the foundations, building up to a longer-term strategy.
|Don’t know where to start with mental health? Hopefully some of these answers will help ?
Q: What if people don’t use these services? ?
Every single person has mental health, so every single person can theoretically engage with a mental health service of some sort.
From what we’ve seen – the majority of people want a space to talk or to work on their mental health in some way, they’re often just hesitant to use services because of the stigma that is still attached to them.
If the services are introduced in the right way and leadership are supportive of them, then generally mental health services are in high demand.
Q: How should I respond to people who are struggling? ?
Understand that this is one of the most challenging situation people in HR or Leadership can face, and I know it can be hard figuring out what to say to someone who’s in a difficult situation.
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to take it on yourself to give advice or to fix the situation for them. What you do need to do is simply be there for them as an empathetic listener.
Although you may feel like you need to give them the perfect answer, that’s the job of professionals, and it’s important that they see one if they’re looking for practical support.
If you don’t have a space where you can send someone, the Sanctus Directory might help.
Q: How do we get senior leaders engaged? ?
It’s important that senior leaders are bought into a mental health initiative for it to work properly. If they’re not, their disengagement will trickle down to the rest of the business.
If they aren’t using a service, or at the very least advocating for it being in place, employees will be scared to use it.
This is true for pretty much any service, mental health or otherwise, but is especially true of mental health initiatives given that the conversation is behind where it needs to be.
While our hope is that senior leaders support mental health initiatives simply because it’s the right thing to do, we understand that sometimes you have to talk a slightly different language.
We’ve seen some people in the past build a bit of a business case around why these services are needed within a business. They’ve shown that attrition figures or sick days are higher than they should be or as compared to their competition, and from that argued that something needs to be done.
Q: Should we call it wellbeing rather than mental health? ?
They’re two different things, and it’s possible to have a wellbeing strategy that doesn’t actually directly cater for mental health.
There’s nothing wrong with using the term “wellbeing”, but we believe it’s important not to hide away from using the term “mental health” – that only fuels the fire that mental health is something that should be kept in the shadows.
These kinds of conversations are what inspired our recent campaign ?
Q: Can I know what themes are cropping up within our business? ?
This is a little more specific to talking services, but we often get asked if we can feedback general themes from Sanctus coaching sessions to the business.
The answer to this will depend on the service provider that you’re asking, but it’s always a hard no from us.
Our space is there for individuals to truly be themselves and work on their mental health, other services are there to feed data and themes back to the business.
Nothing against either approach, it just depends what you’re trying to achieve with your mental health strategy.
Q: Does a strategy change depending on the culture of a business? ?
As with the above, it depends what you’re trying to achieve.
For us and our Sanctus Coaches, we’re working with individuals as individual humans. Not as “Jane from Sales” or “Tom from Operations”. We’re just working with “Jane” or “Tom”. Therefore, our coaches don’t need to be a business culture fit.
If you’re looking to run something like a resilience workshop or talk, then it makes sense that there’s more of a cultural match there.
The best thing to do is ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve with your mental health strategy, and then work backwards from there.
Q: Should I make employees pay for this out of their benefits allowance? ?
Again, there’s no right or wrong approach to this.
We personally believe it’s a no. Cost is a huge barrier to support for people seeking to work on their mental health and so people often don’t get the support that they need.
This is especially true of people who are in a “good” period of mental health, and because there are no real “issues” ongoing, they don’t see a need to pay to work on themselves.
By the business fronting this cost, it removes that barrier for people. It also sends an incredible cultural statement of “we believe in our people being the best that they can be, and we’re going to pay for that to happen”.
However, I know how the Vitality insurance model operates with people earning points for doing activities, and that some businesses give individuals a personal development budget to spend where some initiatives could easily fall under that.
Q: We don’t have much budget – does that matter? ?
Not at all, there are plenty of things you can do for mental health for free, or for a relatively inexpensive sum.
A large portion of people’s mental health is impacted by the level of connection that they have in their lives, both to themselves and others.
To bring connection with others in place, you can easily do things like team lunches, team walks or set up sports clubs. Some businesses also operate a bit of a hot-desking environment, so that people are regularly chatting to colleagues that they wouldn’t normally sit next to.
Q: Why should we prioritise mental health at work? ?♂️
Mental health already exists in your workplace, whether you want it to or not. The way that people show up to work, the kind of manager they are, their goals, fears, dreams, desires, areas for progression and improvement…that’s all mental health.
And so prioritising mental health at work is also, in a way, prioritising performance, productivity, engagement and satisfaction.