How you can work with others to make your workplace more mentally healthy for all

Value mental health and wellbeing as core assets of your organisation

Commit to developing an approach to mental health at work that protects and improves mental health for everyone, whilst supporting those people who experience distress.

Designate champions in your organisation, and ensure senior leaders and middle managers are responsible for implementing mental health and wellbeing initiatives.

Commit to reviewing the way you ‘do business’ to ensure your everyday working culture is as mentally healthy as possible. Promote evidence based mental health tools like mindfulness and exercise support activities to all staff.

Celebrate success

Recognise and celebrate the impact of existing employee benefits and corporate social responsibility activities on the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

Regular staff surveys

Surveys are a great way to see how staff are feeling and identifying areas for improvement. Use the findings to plan and deliver action and inform workplace policies.

For the love of feedback!

Giving effective feedback is a vital part of communication that truly supports our wellbeing in the workplace.

Different aspects of communication lay claim to being the most important: listening effectively or building trust, for example. Though these are important, the critical skill is feedback, both giving and getting.

Effective feedback has benefits for the giver, the receiver and the wider organisation.

Five reasons feedback is great…

Feedback is there all the time

Ask people when feedback happens in organisations and they usually talk about times such as the annual appraisal, or a disciplinary conversation following some kind of wrongdoing.

In fact, feedback is around us all the time. Every time we speak or listen to another person, in our tone of voice, in the words we use, in the silences which we allow, we communicate feedback – how far we trust, how much we respect, the degree to which we love, like or even hate the person in front of us.

We cannot not give feedback. If we think we’re not doing it, we’re a dangerous communicator because it means we are probably not managing communication effectively.

Feedback is another way of listening effectively

When one human being speaks to another, he or she needs to experience two very fundamental things – they need to know that they have been understood, and they need to feel that what they said had some form of value. Remove either of these aspects, and a speaker can quickly become confused or even irritated.

Giving feedback effectively means in one sense simply providing both aspects; for example, showing understanding – ‘I see.’ or ‘OK. I have the same issue.’ – and expressing appreciation – ‘That’s important because …’ or ‘That’s very interesting because …’

Feedback is an opportunity to motivate

Positive feedback is another way of saying praise, and is all about taking the opportunity to express appreciation of a job well done in the hope of inspiring an individual to do many more jobs even better.

Too few leaders, managers and colleagues find time to express thanks to others for something well done, missing the opportunity to inspire greater positive feeling and commitment in those already performing well. This is especially important in times of organisational change to help people adapt to and excel at new ways of working.

Feedback is essential to develop performance

For many, feedback is something akin to criticism or attack. Perhaps this is why it is seldom practised with any enthusiasm, and certainly anticipated with less.

Yet feedback is not criticism, it is a supportive act intended to deal with under-performance in a constructive way and to develop performance to a higher level.

The language which we use is important here; not, ‘You didn’t do …’ but rather ‘If you had done xxx, it would have …’ or ‘The customer wasn’t very happy. What else do you think you could have done?’

Feedback is a way to keep learning

Working internationally, which often entails working with high levels of cultural diversity, organisational complexity and within virtual teams, means we are likely to get things wrong from time to time. We will assume things incorrectly. We will communicate in ways which are confusing and possibly impolite for others.

The only way to make sure we don’t continue making the same mistakes is to get feedback. Invest time in asking and learning about how others experience working with you – ‘What do you like about the way I work and what don’t you like?’ You might find it tough to listen to others’ opinions about your behaviour. But it is what it is; an opinion and not a fact. And if people are thinking it, you may not need to accept it, but you need to manage the perception by explaining more about what you do and why you do it the way you do.

It takes time, of course, but probably saves time in the long run – with greater mutual understanding comes greater speed to deliver.

Support the development of compassionate and effective line management relationships

Provide opportunities for managers to attend relevant training to support staff living with mental health problems and the wellbeing of all staff more widely.

Provide proactive support for staff line-managing people with mental health problems, including access to HR and, where necessary, occupational health services.

Recognise that line managers who have personally experienced mental health problems are a unique asset to a company.

Address discrimination

Ensure that discrimination on the grounds of mental health status is seen to be as unacceptable as discrimination in relation to other protected characteristics such as race, gender or sexual orientation. Organisational values can play a huge part in ensuring this becomes embedded in your culture.

Encourage staff to report any discrimination or harassment they face and to blow the whistle on any act of discrimination they witness.

Value the diversity and transferable skills that lived experience of mental health problems bring and support disclosure

Include mental health in diversity and inclusion strategies, and recognise the mental health component of wider equality initiatives. Ensure your business creates opportunities to link with employability providers to enable people with mental health problems to join your workforce.

Give people positive reasons to disclose by establishing a culture that values authenticity and openness – this should be led from the top of the organisation and again, should be really clear in your organisational values.

Explore setting up peer support and mentoring programmes for staff with lived experience of mental health problems.

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RotherHive is developed by Rotherham Place Partnership

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