The Importance of Mental Health Awareness Week for UK Businesses
Since the pandemic, employers are increasingly aware of the impact of mental health in the workplace. Mental Health Awareness Week serves as an opportunity for UK businesses to prioritise the mental wellbeing of their staff.
Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event that takes place this year in the UK from 15th-19th May. It is a week-long campaign, designed to raise awareness of mental health difficulties and promote mental wellbeing. The week focuses on events and activities, both online and offline, including workshops, seminars, and training.
For UK businesses, Mental Health Awareness Week provides an opportunity to show support for the wellbeing of their employees. By taking part in the week’s events and activities, businesses can help to promote a culture of mental health awareness and reduce stigma around mental health issues.
One of the key benefits of Mental Health Awareness Week for businesses, is the opportunity to gain access to valuable resources and training. For example, the Mental Health Foundation provides a range of free resources and toolkits that businesses can use to support their staff’s mental wellbeing. At PMAC, we are able to offer psychologically informed training and support to businesses, giving organisations the opportunity to learn more about mental health and how to support their staff.
By demonstrating a commitment to mental health and wellbeing, businesses can improve staff morale, retention rates and reduce absenteeism. It is also essential for businesses to engage in Mental Health Awareness Week for the sake of their employees, their reputation, and to become an employer of choice.
Why Mental Health Awareness?
Whilst there has been a societal shift towards understanding that common mental health difficulties such as low mood and anxiety, are normal and ok, and campaigns such as “it’s ok to talk” have made it more socially acceptable to seek support, stigma surrounding mental health still exists. Work is still required to reduce stigma surrounding “more serious” mental health difficulties such as relating to psychosis and eating disorders as examples.
It is also important that time and energy is spent increasing understanding of the lived impact of mental health difficulties, and how and why this impacts functioning. Understanding the links between mental and physical health are also often misunderstood and overlooked.
Mental health awareness remains of utmost importance in order to cultivate a culture of acceptance, and compassion. Lastly, improved awareness of mental health difficulties increases knowledge of and access to positive coping mechanisms, and support services.
Why Employers Should Feel Empowered to Support Mental Health Awareness
Employers may worry that it is not their place to provide information, initiatives or support for mental health, as this is something that should be left to the professionals. However, supporting the wellbeing of your employees by providing policies, training and initiatives such as flexible working, is an opportunity for employers to enhance their business.
Prioritising the wellbeing of employees and taking proactive steps to enhance their mental health and wellbeing through engaging with Mental Health Awareness campaigns, has numerous benefits. Normalising fluctuations in mental health will help to decrease stigma surrounding mental health difficulties. Employees who feel accepted and supported are likely to feel more positively about their work, the work environment, and will be more motivated, productive and loyal to their employers. By promoting acceptance of mental health challenges employers demonstrate that they will support individuals to receive the support they need and deserve, which will increase the likelihood that employees will take preventative measures, reducing the likelihood of absenteeism.
As an employer or a manager, knowing that you are taking steps to support your colleagues in this way and to create a culture of awareness, acceptance and openness is extremely rewarding. Employees will likely feel able to trust in you and your decisions, believing that you do have their best interests in mind. Additionally, using a top-down approach and actively engaging in such initiatives yourself, will allow you to also improve your own mental health and wellbeing.
Investing in the mental health of your employees is a privilege, and an opportunity to improve your business, the culture within it, and your own wellbeing.
The Long-Term Benefits of Supporting Employee Mental Health
Research shows that employees who have poor mental health are more likely to experience burnout, leave their jobs prematurely, and difficulties fulfilling their duties.
Improved Employee Performance and Productivity
When employees feel well-supported, they are better able to focus on their work, have better relationships with colleagues, and are less likely to be absent with stress-related illness. According to research by the World Health Organization (WHO), 61% of employees who feel their workplace has a negative impact on their mental health cited a decline in productivity as a result. Conversely, workers who feel positive about their workplace reported increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Reduced Absenteeism and Staff Turnover
Businesses that provide resources and support for employees’ mental health experience lower rates of absenteeism and staff turnover. When businesses offer mental health support and resources, it creates a safer environment for employees to work in, and as a result, employees may feel inclined to stay working for the company.
Businesses that offer comprehensive mental health programs may experience cost savings, including fewer health insurance claims related to behavioral or substance abuse, disability costs, and lost productivity. Addressing mental health issues before they escalate into costly problems can save businesses significantly. Also, organisations that have a good understanding of their employees’ mental health can make informed decisions that ultimately help them reduce cost and risk.
Enhanced Company Reputation
Employees are more likely to accept job offers or stay working for a company whose culture emphasizes the importance of mental health support. Beyond this, companies who openly support mental health initiatives are also likely to be perceived positively by prospective customers, enhancing the company reputation.
Implementing Mental Health Support Programs: How to Foster a Culture of Wellness in the Workplace
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and treating it with the same importance and consideration can greatly benefit employees and businesses alike.
Below are some practical steps that employers can take to create an environment that fosters mental health:
1. Develop a Mental Health Policy: A mental health policy outlines the company’s commitment to mental health, and provides guidance on how to support employees who are experiencing mental health difficulties. It should outline what support is available; how this can be accessed; and how the company will protect the dignity and confidentiality of employees, and prevent discrimination.
2. Train Managers: Managers are often the first point of contact for employees who are experiencing mental health difficulties. Ensure that managers are trained to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health problems, and are aware of how to support employees effectively. This can include knowing when to adjust workload, consider flexible hours or offer an employee time off.
3. Offer Support: Provide the necessary tools and resources for employees to take care of their mental health. This can include access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), counselling services, and providing professional support or training.
4. Encourage Open Communication: Promote an open company culture where employees feel comfortable talking about mental health problems without fear of discrimination or stigma. Encourage employees to support each other and offer assistance if someone is struggling.
5. Lead by Example: Senior leaders should lead by example and openly talk about mental health. This sends a positive message to employees that fluctuations in mental health is normal, and it is okay to seek help when needed.
Implementing mental health support programs helps to create a healthier and happier workforce. Supporting your employees’ mental health can increase job satisfaction, lower levels of absenteeism and improve productivity. By investing in a culture of wellness in the workplace, overall wellbeing will improve.
How PMAC Can Help
At PMAC, we provide mental health training and support programs designed to proactively identify and manage mental health risks in the workplace. Whether you’re an employer or an employee, it’s never too early to start taking care of your mental health. We offer mental health awareness training as 1 hour introductory sessions, half-day courses and full-day courses, both online and virtually.
We can tailor the content to your team and will ensure that attendees take away practical skills and strategies that they can implement. We can offer sessions for those in leadership roles and for managers, and teach active listening skills as just one example. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how our services can benefit your workplace.