Supporting mental health in the workplace

Written by Jonathan Ross
13 Dec 2023

As we turn our calendars to 2024, business leaders are called to deepen their commitment to employee well-being, recognising that a healthy workforce is fundamental to sustained business success.

Recent findings have placed psychological well-being at the forefront of employees’ concerns, with a significant number expressing satisfaction with the current mental health provisions of their employers. However, there’s an underlying current of change that may undermine this progress.

A decline in the prioritisation of mental health within companies is becoming evident, as seen by a notable drop in the percentage of employees who feel that their mental health is given precedence. In light of this, the necessity for robust mental wellness initiatives is amplified – initiatives that not only promise but deliver on the premise of supporting a productive, contented workforce.

The message from employees is clear: they yearn for workplaces that genuinely support their mental wellness, even to the extent that they would forfeit a portion of their salary for such an environment.

The key to effective mental health strategy lies in sustainable, long-term planning. Reactive and piecemeal approaches are proving inadequate. A strategic, evidence-based methodology is required—one that anticipates the challenges and provides employees with the necessary tools and support before they reach critical stress levels.

The role of managers in this arena is critical. They are not to act as therapists but as knowledgeable and empathetic leaders

It’s crucial for businesses to extend their mental health efforts beyond the once-a-year observances and into regular, meaningful engagement. Initiatives don’t necessarily demand a lot of financial investment.

Sometimes, the most profound changes stem from simple cultural shifts, such as encouraging open conversations about mental health challenges, thus normalizing these critical issues in the workplace.

Re-evaluating the everyday work experience is also key. Employees are calling for more than just superficial perks; they seek a fundamental enhancement of their daily work life. An environment that considers job demands, autonomy, and supportive policies is one that fosters mental well-being.

Research supports the effectiveness of such organisational-level initiatives, showing they can be more impactful than individualised support programs.

For instance, rethinking meeting structures to include breaks and productivity measures, as exemplified by the wellness-focused “Readiness Culture Code,” can make a significant difference in the mental health of employees, boosting their energy and engagement.

The role of managers in this arena is critical. They are not to act as therapists but as knowledgeable and empathetic leaders who are equipped to offer guidance and resources. Integrating mental health training into leadership development programs is essential, emphasising the need for managers to foster a supportive and understanding team environment.

As we approach the new year, the imperative for leaders is clear: mental health must be interwoven into the organizational ethos, beyond mere policy statements and into everyday practice. By doing so, companies can ensure that they are truly addressing the well-being of their workforce, ultimately driving growth and performance in a humane and sustainable manner.