Developing a mentally healthy workplace

Developing a mentally healthy workplace

Although the vaccination rollout signals new hope for recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear there is still some way to go and many challenges yet to face

Many people are feeling rising waves of anxiety as a result of working remotely, home schooling and uncertainty about the future. The toll on employees’ mental health and wellbeing is abundantly clear.

Businesses have a critical role to play in providing additional support to their employees, helping them to feel safe enough to speak up and seek help if they need it. Whether that’s embedding new practices into workplace cultures, providing flexible working patterns, responding helpfully to indications of distress in colleagues or creating working conditions which effectively manage the psychosocial risks from work.

Once the workforce begins its slow return to a new normal, organisations will need to navigate the realities so many have faced, and anxiety will be one part of that very real picture. All of this will push the need for wellbeing even higher up the agenda as we consider our duty of care to employees. From sickness absence and compassionate leave there will be a real emphasis on businesses to better understand the needs of employees and offer a more compassionate workplace.

Equally, there will be a need to understand that without careful consideration of this a rise in grievances and disciplinaries is likely. So, whilst compassionate workplaces may seem fluffy to some, the reality is far from true. Compassion, which means ensuring that our workplace practices are helpful and not harmful leads to the long-term benefits of an organisation. Moving forward, we must determine ways to place wellbeing higher up on the agenda and adapt our practices to enable the sustainability of the future of work in our workplaces.

Whenever the return to work begins there will be many hurdles to overcome and according to the CIPD employee engagement survey tool, the three biggest concerns for employees are:

  1. Contact and proximity to others
  2. Shared spaces being contaminated
  3. Travelling to and from work especially where the use of public transport is common

There will be a need to review and update existing policies such as flexible working, compassionate leave and bereavement to ensure a sense of safety within the office environment.  If hybrid ways of working are to become the future, employees must also have the resources to do their jobs effectively which may include help with increased heating and lighting costs incurred in a home environment.

The provision of effective line manager training to help individuals begin conversations around mental health and wellbeing will be vital to support employees. It will also be important to tackle cultures of long working hours, unreasonable demands, increasingly competitive environments and a lack of development and career progression, all of which we know are detrimental to health and wellbeing.

Above all creating a mentally healthy workplace is about the creation of business cultures which manage performance alongside wellbeing and are committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of their employees at all levels of the business, which includes, psychological and emotional support, financial support and creating spaces which can respond to life’s challenges with compassion.

Written by Kirsty Lilley, CABA’s Mental health specialist

CABA provides free lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff and their close family members across the globe. Find out more about how CABA can support your ACA employees on our dedicated mental wellbeing support hub.

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