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Top Tips for encouraging mental wellbeing in the workplace

To recognise World World Mental Health Day, Ben Bolton, Digital Resilience Research Lead at SWGfL, reflects on Mental Health in the Workplace. In this blog he offers his top tips on how education settings can make sure staff are getting the support they need to thrive as they face increased pressures and targets.

Stress in the workplace is having a huge impact on mental health and it is not something we can afford to ignore. This is unlikely to go away of its own accord. We will need to take positive action to reverse this trend. Whilst there might be a cost associated with this action, the cost of not doing so will be far more severe.

Prevention

As with anything, prevention is always better than cure so be proactive, and set the standards for others to follow:

  • Develop a Mental Health Policy – having a concrete policy reassures employees that their organisation cares about their wellbeing. Maybe involve staff in developing the policy.
     
  • Engage other key stakeholders in the conversation e.g. parents and pupils. The more widely this is understood, the better.
     
  • Create a culture of openness and awareness by encouraging people to talk about mental health. Make sure you model this behaviour and show that vulnerability, asking for help is OK… better than that, it is expected.
     
  • Invest in training or awareness raising. If staff feel line managers are knowledgeable about mental health issues, they are far more likely to talk. Also, you will no doubt find issues are identified earlier as triggers will be known.
     
  • Get to know staff. The better we know our teams the more chance we have of identifying when things are getting tough. We will notice behaviour changes and patterns.
     
  • Communicate openly. Use staff briefings to assert the message. Find out what the reality is and how it can be improved. As a leader, your role is to make sure you allow your staff to be well and be their best. Not because of the bottom line benefits, but because it is a worthy end in itself… rest assured, performance will follow.
     
  • Introduce regular staff discussion or even clinical supervision for staff to ensure they have an outlet and a means of discussing issues.
     
  • Your goal is to make it OK to talk openly, to ensue this issue does not go underground and fester. The ways in which to achieve this are endless.

Intervention

Despite best efforts, there will be occasions when staff feel overwhelmed by the pressures upon them. If this happens it is important to:

  • Identify a go-to person. We spend a lot of time making sure young people know who to turn to in a crisis, staff need the same support. Every member of staff should have someone else looking out for them and vice versa. The ultimate aim is that this won’t be needed because everyone will be looking out for each other.
  • Check that you have an Employee Assistance Programme in place to provide additional support for staff if they’re having difficulties inside or outside the workplace – these can offer a range of services from counselling through to legal advice.
  • Seek the advice of your health partners. Your Employee Assistance Programme will have plenty of resources available to help your managers become more comfortable with the issues relating to mental health.