How are companies supporting common mental health problems in the workplace?

Morgan McKinley 10.05.2019

It is an employer’s duty to ensure they are appropriately equipped and their staff are properly supported so they can deal with common mental health problems in the workplace. But what specific steps are organisations taking?

Companies are taking significant steps to improve the wellbeing of staff

Destigmatising the discussion of mental health issues between organisations and their employees is a key focus across numerous industries. It is in the best interest of employers to connect affected workforces with the care they need and they must offer as much support as possible.

“Mental health is an issue many organisations cannot afford to ignore. It’s the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year.” Chloe Ward, technician at mental health clinic Smart TMS.

Regardless of size, every organisation should be aware of common mental health problems and equipped to ensure the condition of any employees who are struggling isn’t worsened by being at work. This can be done in a number of ways, the obvious ones being; offering flexible hours, changing the workplace so it is quieter and less stressful, provision of quiet rooms and agreements to give an employee leave at short notice, including time off for appointments related to health.

Some companies are going above and beyond in an attempt to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their staff. Below are some innovative ways that organisations are setting the bar for how to look after employees struggling with common mental health problems.

Unilever - addressing what employees want from life

Unilever has a company-wide focus on physical and mental wellbeing in order to “support employees to be the best they can be.'' This has the ultimate goal of ensuring all employees are in a sustainable state of feeling good and functioning as a ‘whole human’. The organisation also runs a lamplighter programme, which recognises that mental health is especially important in times of change or uncertainty.

Unilever’s global Well-Being Steering Committee have created a four-pillar framework in an attempt to address the physical, mental, emotional and purposeful wellbeing of their employees. A large part of being happy at work is feeling a sense of purpose; Unilever has implemented a ‘Purpose Workshop’ that addresses what employees want from their career and gives them a chance for deep reflection.

In 2016, Unilever became founding corporate partners of Heads Together in the UK. This initiative combines a campaign to tackle the stigma around mental health and changing the conversation with fundraising for a series of innovative mental health services.

Innocent Drinks - creating an environment that supports mental health

Innocent Drinks offer a range of perks to indirectly ease their staff’s work stresses and improve their happiness such as:

  • Free breakfast
  • Free gym membership to encourage regular exercise
  • Yoga club where employees can practise mindfulness

Further to the above, Innocent also have a number of programmes in place which have the aim of creating an environment that supports mental health; a 24 hour employee assistance programme that allows employees to speak confidentially, as well as training courses that promote a better understanding of mental wellbeing. One of the training courses helps to improve general awareness of mental health problems and another is tailored specifically for managers, ensuring they are appropriately equipped to support their teams.



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Ernst & Young (EY) - benefits tailored to improve employees’ mindsets

Ernst & Young, one of the largest global professional services firms, offers many benefits that are specifically conducive to promoting good mental health at work - private healthcare, free health assessments and occupational health and rehabilitation consultancy are all available to employees who have been with the firm for more than three years. In an attempt to eliminate the stigma, senior leaders frequently share their own stories, talking frankly about their struggles with common mental health problems. This encourages employees to reach out whenever they feel like they need help.

EY also has a free online health assessment and 24 hour counselling that employees, and their families, can use. Further to all this, the firm encourages its workers to cycle to work and join any of the various office sports teams - regular exercise is proven to aid mental health and positively affect an individual’s mindset.

Sweaty Betty - healthy lifestyle, healthy mindset

As a company that specialises in women’s activewear, Sweaty Betty recognises the importance of a healthy work-life balance. A major part of this comes from keeping office stress to a minimum, paying attention to mental health and giving your mind a chance to rest every day. Sweaty Betty employees are given the option to join a lunchtime yoga class to help “disconnect from your desk and reconnect with your minds”.

They also have a Monday running club, as well as the option to start later in the day, so that employees can concentrate on personal goals and start the week by organising themselves. Employees also benefit from an assistance programme, provided by the Retail Trust, that gives access to free counselling and support as well as education around other areas such as financial wellbeing.

Why is mental health awareness at work so important?

Ensuring that workforces have a stable sense of purpose and direction should be a priority for every organisation. We all go through tough times occasionally, but when employers have processes in place that provide support, it can make those difficult periods much easier.

Good mental health enables people to thrive. Within a business, when employees are thriving mentally, productivity is boosted. This is something that should no longer be overlooked by any organisation.

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