Workplace mental health has become a greater focus for organisations around the world, particularly in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

The employee mental health imperative has been brought to the fore following the enforced lockdowns and subsequent work from home shift that the majority of the workforce underwent – and are still operating in. Many of us have been feeling isolated from our families, friends, offices and teams, which makes workplace mental health an even more complex issue for employers to tackle.

Despite businesses' best efforts, workplace mental health is an ongoing challenge. Deloitte’s 2021 Human Capital Trends Survey found that, although employers are doing more to support their staff, there is a continuing disconnect between employers and workers when it comes to supporting employee wellbeing.

RELATED: 10 ways to address mental health in the workplace

Following R U OK? Day on September 9, World Mental Health day this October 10 and Mental Health Month during October, we share the benefits and key considerations on what companies can be doing better to prioritise employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

The benefits of workplace mental health initiatives

Before we look at how to promote mental health in the workplace, let’s first look at why it matters:

This research demonstrates that workplace mental health is a critical strategy in driving employee productivity, engagement and retention.

Job candidates today also expect that their new or prospective companies will provide a framework for mental health and wellbeing support. With this in mind, businesses that want to recruit and retain top talent should strongly consider health and wellness an imperative.

How to prioritise workplace mental health

Ensuring employee mental health is recognised, acknowledged and implementing a framework are all critical factors for businesses. Here are five key areas to consider:

1. Get buy-in from leadership

Ensure there’s a clear commitment to mental health and wellbeing from organisational decision-makers. If CEOs, executives, managers and HR are not talking about it regularly with employees, it’s clearly apparent that there is no or low priority for staff mental wellness for the business. The consequences of this can be dire.

2. Create a mental health and wellbeing policy

Outline your company’s dedication to employee wellbeing, how you’ll measure success and what steps you’ll take to achieve your objectives as part of your formal policies. Involve employees in the planning process and show you value their input, both initially and ongoing via regular reviews.

3. Communicate with your employees

Let your employees know the steps you’re taking to prioritise mental health and wellbeing. You should be fostering a transparent, comfortable yet confidential work environment for your staff members to share how they are feeling.

Also provide them with support resources – both internal and external. Useful hotlines include:

4. Introduce fun and engaging activities

Roll out activities and initiatives that promote wellbeing, such as:

  • Office or virtual yoga, meditation or stretching sessions
  • ‘Giving back’ staff CSR/charity days
  • Gym membership discounts
  • Fitness challenges and fun runs
  • Flexible hours or the option to work from home
  • Healthy office snacks

5. Measure your success

Finally, make sure to track the outcomes of workplace mental health training and initiatives with staff surveys or other metrics. Above all, it’s important to use these metrics to refine and improve your approach over time.

Workplace mental health resources

Here are some valuable rsources to help you get started:

  • Look After Your Mental Health: printable calendars for October Mental Health Month
  • Here but not really here: A workplace campaign reminding people to trust their gut instinct and start a conversation with a colleague they’re worried about. This kit includes posters, email copy and a PPT presentation
  • Would you say something?: A workplace campaign reminding people that we've all got what it takes to start a conversation with someone we're worried about. This kit includes posters, stickers and email copy
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