Today is World Mental Health Day, and with statistics consistently showing that one in six people experience mental health problems in the workplace, is it time for all HR professionals to commit to producing a mental health policy?
Findings from a Deloitte survey carried out earlier this year revealed that UK employers are doing more to raise awareness of and support staff with mental health issues compared to their counterparts across the globe. However, a 2017 report written by Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer, recommends improved mental health policies are needed in the workplace.
The development and implementation of any new policies requires financial investment, but with 12.7% of sick days attributed to mental health conditions and 42% of employees pretending that they have a physical instead of mental condition when calling in sick, it’s undoubtedly an investment worth making.
The ‘Thriving at Work’ report from Paul Farmer says effective mental health policies have a return of between £1.50 for every £1 invested. Large organisations like Asda are doing it and now SMEs should consider rolling out a mental health policy too.
In case you have no idea where to start, here are some steps to take towards creating your first mental health policy.
Put your case forward
Gaining leadership support is your first challenge in developing a mental health policy. Ensure you have gathered enough information and evidence about how poor mental health can negatively impact the workplace. There may be a number of key stakeholders, each with different priorities, so ensure you cover the tangible impacts on the bottom line, as well as staff morale and productivity.
At this point, you want them to commit resources to developing a strategy and plan for implementing a policy.
Carry out some analysis
Look at the mental health statistics you have available within your own organisation, such as sickness days related to mental health issues and turnover rates. Also consider the qualitative data you can get from exit interviews and performance review feedback to see if you can identify any trends.
Involving staff early-on can be extremely useful. You could run an anonymous survey to ask about their mental health experiences and what could be done to improve mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Review any existing policies you have as well as any services you already offer, the cost and effectiveness.
Document findings and ideas
Gather all feedback and information obtained from research and develop a one page report that details the findings, core issues that need addressing and ideas for how to address those issues within a policy.
Where possible, provide a brief overview of human and financial resources required to implement each idea and the potential return on investment.
Develop a plan
Set out your objectives, perhaps by using the SMART model – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific – and detail the action you are going to take to meet these objectives.
Within smaller organisations, it may take time to implement a policy so you could adopt a staged approach. For example, if your first objective is to raise awareness and improve understanding of mental health, you could start by holding a workshop for employees.
Create an action plan template for each objective, setting out what you’re going to do, how and who should be involved and when.
Commit and communicate
Ensure responsibility for the policy is allocated to a member of staff or a small team of ‘champions’, each with specific roles. Then communicate your plans to the whole company, so everyone knows what effort is being made to address mental health in the workplace.
You could hold a launch event, distribute posters and electronic handbooks and post on the intranet if you have one.
Remember that any policies should be reviewed regularly, especially after initial implementation, as it will only become clear what aspects need improving once the policy is in force.