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Towards robust workplace wellbeing strategies

A mentally healthy workplace is something we should all be striving for

This year World Mental Health Day (WMHD) is shining the spotlight on workplace wellbeing; raising awareness and calling for employers to take action. This is an excellent opportunity to start exploring the ‘strategy’ behind what makes mentally healthy organisations and how senior leadership has an important part to play in this process. Our experience shows that quality mental health skills and awareness training is a crucial underpinning of any comprehensive workplace wellbeing strategy. This year for WMHD we have launched a ‘Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit’, which illustrates a strategic step by step process to achieve ‘whole organisational’ change towards a mentally healthy workplace, and provides a suite of resources to facilitate this.

So how does this strategy work? As a first step we recommend that you sensitise your organisation to the idea of talking about mental health. A great way to begin is by signing the Time to Change Employer Pledge to demonstrate your commitment to changing how you think and act about mental health in the workplace. Downloading our Take 10 Together materials and sharing them in your workplace is another way to start off this journey, as these give practical tips and information on mental health awareness.

The next step involves upskilling your workforce with practical skills for employees to support each other. Our toolkit provides a concise training framework to guide employers in implementing MHFA training, as well as resources including posters, factsheets and links to further information to help employers and employees to understand MHFA course contents and the role of a Mental Health first aider.

Finally the strategy implemented needs to be sustainable. We recommend training employees in-house as MHFA instructors, who can then continue delivering training cost-effectively and in a way suited to the changing needs of the specific organisation. For smaller organisations ‘lunch and learn’ sessions can be a great way for those who have undertaken the training to share their knowledge.

Through all of these steps is a need to measure the impact of the strategy, so we’ve also created an informative infographic packed with tips on evaluating how mentally health your workplace is, tracking the changes over time, and using this to shape your wellbeing strategy and policies. Along the way we have included tips and inspiration in the form of short video clips and written case studies to allow you to see what other organisations across a range of sectors have found to work well.

Ultimately, our Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit is geared towards improving mental health awareness and reducing stigma through robust strategy. In our experience the presence of dedicated Mental Health first aiders helps employees feel able to open up about mental health in the workplace, proactively manage their own mental health, and access support when they need it – leading to quicker recoveries and more positive outcomes.

Good wellbeing strategy and training is about creating a culture and an environment where people experiencing mental ill health have options. This might be a choice between managing mental ill health independently or receiving support from a colleague who can direct that person to further support. It’s not about bureaucratically mandating conversations on mental health, but is about ensuring the structures are in place to ensure employees have choices and can be effectively supported at their own discretion.

My hope is that this free toolkit will provide some useful resources and guidance for organisations of all kinds, which may be at advanced or early stages in implementing workplace wellbeing strategies. No matter how big or small the organisation, if we truly care about the wellbeing of our workforces a mentally healthy workplace is something we should all be striving for.

Jaan Madan is head of the in-house consultancy team at Mental Health First Aid England