The focus on wellbeing in the workplace, and specifically mental health, is not just the right thing to do from a moral perspective; it makes real business sense. In 2017 the Stevenson Farmer report Thriving at Work determined the cost of poor mental health to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion each year. This cost is made up of absence costs of £8 billion, presenteeism (defined as attending work while ill and therefore being unable to work at your best) costs of £17 – £26 billion and turnover costs of £8 billion. However, evidence around workplace interventions showed a return on investment (ROI) for business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested. Thinking about an employee journey it was found that earlier interventions in workplace culture and mental health awareness yielded the best returns. So why do we have to train the leaders and managers?
The wellbeing of employees as a business metric, for many businesses, is a real culture change and therefore is not going to happen overnight. Therefore, leaders and managers must understand:-
- What is mental health?
- What is a mentally healthy workplace and what does positive well being in the workplace mean and how they can be implemented?
- The benefits of a mentally healthy workplace and the ROI this brings
- The negative implications of not using this management approach where other organisations are creating mentally healthy workplaces
- The leadership behaviours and actions that are required to bring about this change.
Training, as anyone who works in people development understands, is not all that is needed, but it’s a starting point in the overall wellbeing strategy which helps explain and create this culture change. Leaders and Managers are the creators and guardians of the organisational culture. Without their support and buy in, initiatives don’t work.
In talking about this culture change to many organisations, the response is, “it’s ok, we have sent some employees on a mental health first aid course!” Whilst a Mental Health First Aid course is one of many excellent interventions, it can never be the only one, it’s just a part of an overall wellbeing strategy. If leaders and managers are not trained beforehand, they may not understand the role of the Mental Health First Aider and may in some cases, be suspicious, and as a result the role of the Mental Health First Aider may be derailed.
In terms of the overall wellbeing strategy, it should be created after consultation with all employees with regards to what a mentally healthy workplace and positive wellbeing would look like within the organisation. After design and training it should then be implemented from the senior management level down.
Therefore leaders and managers are the first people that should experience Managing Mental Health in the Workplace training, so that they can understand the reasons and benefits of a mentally healthy workplace and leadership style and culture that creates wellbeing. If the top team don’t buy into it, it will not be a successful culture change and leadership style and behaviours will not change.
Thereafter all line managers should receive training on Managing Mental Health in the workplace, but also policies and procedures should be created and implemented from a place of well being.
Moving forward, I believe that leadership and management development programmes should all include the benefits of a mentally healthy workplace and positive wellbeing in the workplace. Whilst many programme designers may believe it’s already in included, it is not explicit and therefore behaviours do not change and it is not given the focus it deserves in order to enhance the organisation
M55 People design and deliver Managing Mental Health in the Workplace training for Line Managers. All programmes are bespoke in terms of content and timings in order to meet the needs of the organisation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Next Month – Designing and Implementing a Wellbeing strategy