How to Create a Workplace Culture That’s Open About Mental Health at Work

mental health is as important as our physical health

But it's not always easy to talk about. As an employer here's how you can change that...

The mental health of your employees is as important as their physical health, at any given time 1 in 6 working age adults have symptoms associated with mental illness (NHS). But, unlike a sprained ankle or a broken bone, when we’re struggling with our mental health it isn’t always easy to talk about. 1 in 5 people have taken a day of due to stress, but 90% of people said it was for a different reason (Mind).

It’s important that as workplaces move towards a workplace culture where people can be themselves, support mental health and focus on mental wellness not just illness. When we’re mentally well we can think clearly, be aware of our resources, have resilience to respond to challenges and maintain our wellbeing when facing challenges.

“Starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult”
- Mind


4 ways to create a culture that’s open around mental health at work:

Promote awareness:

To have a culture that’s open about mental health, one of the first steps is to educate your teams on common mental health issues, the signs to look out for in themselves and their colleagues, as well as how to be mentally well.

You could hold mental health discussions where people can talk about their own mental health and share advice. This works best as a top-down approach, so encourage your senior leaders to talk about any issues they might be facing and what’s helped them.

Encourage communication:

Keeping our concerns or worries to ourselves can end up making them worse. Encourage your teams to be open about what their worries are, what they think can be improved, and where they need support. This can be in teams or between an employee and a line manager.

It’s important for all employees to have regular catch ups, make sure to talk about how they’re doing if they’re facing challenges rather than just jumping straight into a to do list. It’s also key for managers to have an open-door policy so if one of their team needs to talk to someone, they know who they can talk to without facing judgement.

Nurture wellbeing:

There are ways we can all look after our mental wellbeing. Give your employees advice on small things they can do to help, and look for ways you can build it into the working day:

  • Be engaged in the present moment: being able to notice our own thoughts and feelings without necessarily reacting to them can give us better perspective. Mindfulness can help with that, whether it’s breathing, meditation or journaling.
  • Getting good sleep: sleep is important for all our health; it can make a big difference to how we feel mentally. For advice on how to help your employees get more sleep, click here.
  • The benefits of exercise: whether it’s holding walking meetings or virtual running clubs, helping your employees get active is great for their mental and physical health. It can help raise their self-esteem, set goals and achieve them as well causing chemical changes in our brains which can positively change our moods.
  • Learn new skills: like exercise, learning new skills can boost our self confidence and raise self esteem and it can help us build a sense of purpose and connect with others. You could encourage your employees to take up hobbies by having them showcase their talents to others by running virtual sessions.
  • Encourage good nutrition: eating a healthy balanced diet isn’t just good for our bodies, it’s good for our mental health too.

Provide resources:

As an employer, it isn’t your job to be experts in mental health issues, but it is important to provide your teams with resources they can use. This could be through having some staff members become mental health first aiders, share external resources or implement an employee assistance programme. EAPs can support your employees when they need it most through free, confidential advice from BACP-accredited counsellors face-to-face, online, e-mail or on the phone.


How we can help:

If you need support creating a wellbeing strategy that puts your employee’s mental health and wellbeing at its heart we can help. Get in touch with our experts today to see how we can help you create a workplace culture that is open about mental health.

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NHS: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in England