Mental health continues to be overlooked in many organisations, but is still one of the biggest contributors to sickness in the workplace. Over a fifth of organisations report that mental ill health is the primary cause of long term absence1, yet many organisations don’t have the strategies in place to deal with this issue. To tackle this issue and make a change, we should look to those organisations that have implemented effective strategies.
Royal Mail Group is a great example. They successfully designed and implemented a mental health strategy for their whole business to reduce absenteeism due to mental health. The strategy, known as ‘Because Healthy Minds Matters’, was a programme aimed at solving a complex problem with a simple solution. No mean feat in an organisation that has a male dominated workforce, typically resistant to talking about mental health. In this blog, we have highlighted five lessons we can learn from this example to support organisation leaders in implementing their own mental health strategies.
1. Increasing awareness
For your strategy to be successful, the entire organisation needs to be aware of it. It is absolutely critical to engage employees at all levels to ensure that people are aware, on board, and know what to do if they encounter someone with a mental health issue.
2. Decreasing stigma
Despite numerous public mental health campaigns, there remains a certain level of stigma around discussing mental health. People need to feel secure talking about their states of mind, without fear of repercussions or others looking down on them. Everyone should know that it is OK to talk, and if you can effectively disseminate this message throughout an organisation, you have won half the battle.
Once a mental health problem has been identified, it is absolutely essential that individuals know where to go to receive support. This information should not just be resigned to a notice board in the corner of the office, but should be understood by all, particularly those in a leadership position. This will allow people to get the help that they need, when they need it.
4. Commitment from leadership
As with all projects, it is doomed to fail without the support of key leaders within the organisation. They should be engaged with early, with the benefits of an effective mental health campaign thoroughly explained to them. Most significantly, leaders must ‘walk the talk’, backing up their support to a mental health campaign with appropriate resources. Highlighting the potential for a reduction in missed sick days may be key to garnering this support.
5. Measuring success
Once the campaign has been launched, the results must be analysed to demonstrate success and highlight areas for improvement. For Royal Mail Group, the wellbeing score of the organisation increased by 1%, a significant number in a workforce of 140k. They will also train 5,500 employees in mental health first aid, and create 80 ‘mental health ambassadors’. As demonstrated here, a mental health initiative must have defined goals and parameters for success to be effective.
What can you do?
The lessons identified above can be universally adopted by any organisation that wishes to implement a mental health strategy. Understanding the scale of the problem in the organisation is the first step to creating an effective strategy. This must then be coupled with a clear roadmap for delivery, as well as the involvement of senior stakeholders to ensure the appropriate allocation of resources and the reduction of stigma from the top.
Once the campaign is under way, be sure to measure success so that you can make adjustments as required and maximise effectiveness. With these steps, you will be well on your way to reducing mental health issues in the workplace, resulting in a happier, more productive workforce that understands that mental health, just like physical health, can be treated and improved.
You can watch the video to find out the full Royal Mail Group story here.
1. CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-Being at Work report 2018