Looking to open up the mental health conversation in your office? These ideas should get you off to a flying start.
Weekend plans? Sure! Box set recommendations? No problem. Mental wellbeing? Tumbleweed. There’s no doubt about it, some espresso machine conversations come a lot easier than others. In a study by mental health charity Time to Change, 60% of people said that when it comes to mental health, stigma and discrimination are just as, if not more damaging than the symptoms of their mental health problem and 54% percent of people said that they’re impacted most by stigma in their workplace. It’s up to us businesses to work together and do all we can to make this better.
“A survey of more than 44,000 employees revealed that only half of those who had experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it, suggesting that as many as 25% of UK workers are struggling in silence.”—Time to Change / Mind
As much as we’d like it to be the case, there’s no magic spell to obliterate all discrimination and make people feel comfortable enough to talk about mental wellbeing at work. But in the meantime, there are plenty of things that you can do to create a safe, accepting, welcoming space for the conversation around mental health. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling…
1. All-Hands Announcement
Ask your team to gather round and get comfy—things are going to change (in a good way). One of the best ways to get people talking about mental health is to start the conversation. Take this as an opportunity to announce that—as a business—you will be putting processes in place to prioritise mental health and would also love to hear some ideas. Your team can either give feedback straight away, submit anonymously (we’d recommend something like Typeform) or even speak to a designated person in your senior team. By getting everyone involved, you’re showing that their opinions are important on this issue and that you’re willing to not only listen, but to put those ideas into practice.
2. Mental Health Days
Just as our bodies can feel under the weather, so can our minds and as the BBC reports, in the UK, there’s no legal difference between taking a mental health sick day and a day off for a physical problem. However, it’s not the legal side of things that stops people from taking that much-needed time off—it’s stigma. On one hand, someone with a diagnosed mental illness could feel anxious for taking too many sick days and for someone without a diagnosed mental illness, they could feel judged for not having a “serious enough” case to warrant a day off—even if they’re experiencing a short-term lapse in their wellbeing. So, what can you do about it? Again, this about opening up conversations and putting things in place—eg: Making it known that mental health days are treated the same way as physical sick days and won’t result in anyone losing their job. Less fear = less secrets + more conversations.
3. Lead by Example
Studies have shown that people want their employers to talk about mental health—and as the Harvard Business Review says, “it starts with transforming leaders into allies.” For CEOs and senior members, this means leading by example—sharing your experiences, taking mental health sick days, attending wellbeing events, and actively supporting your team when they need it most. Your actions could be precisely what your other team members need to speak openly about their own experiences.
4. Mental Health Training for Senior Management
Mental health in your office isn’t a one person job—it takes a village to create a healthy company culture and luckily, you have a team there to help. Charities like Mind offer online courses and bespoke training workshops, so you and your senior team (or your whole team) can learn how to correctly handle mental health in the workplace. With everyone on the same page and designated time with experts, it will give your team the opportunity to ask any questions and get the conversation going.
5. Regular 1-to-1 Mental Health Check-ins
With all that training up your sleeve, now’s your time to shine. Here’s the thing, not everyone wants to share details on their mental wellbeing with the entire team and so, this is where regular, monthly, 1-to-1 catch ups can give people the space to open up on the mental health conversation. By making it a point on the agenda, it gets it out there and gives your team a platform to speak freely on how they’re feeling. Each check-in could either be hosted by a line manager, or simply someone else in the team for peer-to-peer support.
6. Respect Boundaries
According to research by Babylon Health, nearly 80% of people feel uncomfortable talking to their managers about mental health, and that isn’t going to disappear overnight. When people feel forced into something, it only causes more stress and results in the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. So, there are two ways to keep this from happening 1) let everyone know that your new mental health initiatives are optional and 2) give them a quick, easy, non-awkward-way to opt out. Over time, they might feel more comfortable speaking about mental health, but hey, if not, that’s no problem at all.
7. Make Therapy the Norm
In another study by Mind, 60% of employees say that they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their company if their employer supported mental health and wellbeing. Here at HubbleHQ, we’re working alongside Timewith to contribute towards ongoing therapy for our team as one of our company “perks”. For us, it’s about making therapy a proactive approach to mental health that’s open to everyone and helping to remove the fear and stigma that’s often attached to counselling. Again, this could be an excellent option for people who aren’t as comfortable speaking about mental health with their line manager or team, but would still like to talk with someone.
8. Take a Mental Health Pledge
The Mental Health Pledge—set-up by mental health charity, Sanctus—is a commitment to creating a mental health-friendly company culture. Alongside the pledge, you’ll develop an actionable framework to create an open environment where mental health is supported, and people can bring their full selves to work. For that reason, we’re proud to have taken the Mental Health Pledge. It’s more than a decorative piece of paper; by signing up to the pledge, you’re sending a message to your team that they never need to leave their mental wellbeing at the door—the conversation is always open.
Finally, take one step at a time. As you can imagine, the logistics of workplace wellbeing can be pretty stressful if you try to do it all at once, but with small steps, you can make a massive difference for your business and your team.