· Features

Mental health and the role of HR

Research by Pizza Hut and Mental Health UK has found most think they're responsible for their mental health at work

Research shows that one in four people in the UK is affected by mental health issues each year – so whether you’re a small or large business it needs to be on your agenda.

As part of our recent partnership with Mental Health UK we conducted research across the hospitality industry to better understand how mental health affects people in the workplace and what support they want from their employer.

Interestingly, the findings showed that the majority of people think they are personally responsible for their mental health at work (55%), with 15% saying it’s the responsibility of the entire organisation and just 4% putting the onus with HR.

So does this mean, as HR professionals, we don’t have a role to play when it comes to tackling mental health problems in the workplace?

The answer is no. Employees may think the responsibility doesn’t lie with HR but I believe it’s our job to act as the driver for change across the business. We need to take responsibility for raising awareness about mental health problems and ensuring the right channels are in place. On a larger scale, this means fostering and maintaining a workplace culture that is supportive and understanding, and helping all employees to feel accepted wherever they work in the business and whatever their background.

One of the research findings that really stood out was that more than a third of people wouldn’t know how to support a colleague with mental health problems. This is clearly something that needs to be addressed. We need to be equipping managers with the right knowledge and tools to support their team members and encourage a culture where people can talk openly about their mental health.

One of the simplest things businesses can do is introduce formalised training to teach employees how to help colleagues who are affected. Talking about mental health is never easy, so managers need to know how to broach the subject and how they can help their team members. Having this open dialogue helps to build and maintain a supportive workplace culture.

At Pizza Hut Restaurants we take a holistic approach to training that not only teaches people the skills they need to do their jobs, but also supports behavioural and emotional development. For example, through our partnerships with School of Life and Heartstyles employees are able to tackle issues including anxiety, communication, stress and relationships. This helps contribute to a culture of openness, ensuring that every one of our team members is given the tools and support to be themselves and feel happy at work.

In addition, by supporting the Mental Health UK charities we’re supporting our customers, our people and our values – and through fundraising initiatives we will in turn support the local communities in which our Huts operate.

Ultimately all good businesses know that a happy and motivated workforce is at the heart of their success. We know that our people are what drive our business, and we have worked hard to craft an environment in which people feel happy and supported. A major part of this is raising awareness of issues around mental health and helping to break the taboo once and for all.

Kathryn Austin is chief people and marketing director at Pizza Hut Restaurants, and winner of HRD of the Year at the HR Excellence Awards 2016