Engaging with Workplaces during Mental Health Awareness Week and Beyond
Author: Vicki Cockmann - MHFA England
Right now, there are 32 million people in work across the UK – and whether they are CEOs, managers, or administrators, they all have mental health. Working life presents challenges that help us to learn and grow, which can be a powerful driver for positive wellbeing. At the same time, it’s here in the workplace that we experience many of the pressures and stresses that most significantly impact on our mental health.
Indeed, research shows that nearly two thirds of us have experienced a mental health issue where work is a contributing factor. Reassuringly, more and more leaders in the commercial world are now recognising that they have the responsibility – and the ability – to create a working environment that supports the mental health of their teams. They understand that this is more than a feel-good exercise, and that positive mental health and business success go hand in hand.
From a financial perspective, mental ill health alone costs employers a staggering £42 billion annually. Add that to the more than 300,000 people falling out of work every year due to mental ill health and it becomes very clear to employers that creating a mentally healthy organisation is crucial. In a mentally healthy workplace we are more likely to have higher job satisfaction, be more engaged and be more productive – all of which protects the sustainability of a business. And when it comes to workplace mental health, good practice involves taking a ‘whole organisation’ approach.
This approach means weaving in wellbeing across processes and policies and engaging with employees at every level and function. It means thinking about ‘hygiene’ factors like healthy job design, fair and equal pay, flexible working and reasonable adjustments. It’s about training onsite staff to be mental health first aiders so that early intervention is possible, and then promoting clear pathways to further support for when people are struggling.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, this year Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is excited to again be supporting employers to highlight their commitment to workplace wellbeing with two new campaigns: #EmpowerHalfHour and the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ Workplace Manifesto.
For the #EmpowerHalfHour campaign we’ve created a mini toolkit to support workplaces to explore the link between mental and physical wellbeing. We want to empower colleagues to connect, and help them to start new, healthy habits that they can take forward and build into their working day. The toolkit is packed full of ideas for 30-minute activities centred around five themes – bond, move, motivate, share, discover.
MHFA England is leading by example with a series of exciting events to engage our team over Mental Health Awareness Week including a mindfulness session, an employee run club, a full team shared lunch, an engaging keynote address, and a Friday night yoga class to round off the week.
Alongside this, the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign, led by mental health campaigner Natasha Devon, Bauer Media UK and MHFA England, is launching a bold new call for workplace leaders to lay down their commitment to workplace wellbeing by signing up to the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ Workplace Manifesto.
We are encouraging employers, business leaders, and MPs across the country to sign up as official supporters of the manifesto to show their commitment to prioritising mental health in the workplace. The manifesto is a commitment to building diverse and inclusive workplaces, to supporting and protecting mental health, and to keeping the mental health and wellbeing of employees at the heart of all we do in our organisations.
As the Workplace Lead for MHFA England, it is heartening to see so many new businesses each month taking serious action to develop mental health strategies and increase mental health awareness.
Many employers are already building a healthier future for their teams, and the recently launched manifesto reinforces this vision for a world where mentally healthy workplaces are the norm; the kind of world we all want to work and live in. Signing up to this manifesto is one small thing every employer can do to show they’re serious about being a part of this vision, whether it’s the first step or one of many.
Whatever stage your organisation is at, talking openly about mental health, asking for support when it’s needed and treating mental and physical health equally at work is something we should all sign up for.
To find out more about how your organisation can become an official supporter of the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ Workplace Manifesto visit www.wheresyourheadat.org.
About the author:
Vicki Cockman is the Workplace Lead at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England CIC. Vicki leads a team working with organisations in a wide range of industries, supporting them to develop and implement Mental Health First Aid training programmes. By helping people to develop the skills to look after their own and others’ wellbeing, Vicki’s team supports MHFA England’s vision of normalising attitudes and behaviours around mental health in all areas of society. Vicki is passionate about breaking stigma around mental health and creating workplaces where people feel able to talk about their mental wellbeing.