Today is World Mental Health Day and this years’ theme is ‘supporting good mental health in the workplace’.

We spend a third of our lives at work, so it is understandable that our employers and our working environment play an integral role in shaping our physical and mental health.

More and more companies across the UK are realising that company culture is a powerful tool in encouraging healthy mental health habits for employees, by successfully promoting better mental health in the workplace.

Creating a culture within your company which values and encourages positive mental health, while supporting any employees that have mental health needs, adds value for both the business and the employees. The creation of such a culture does not need to be complicated or at great expense to the business, and there are many simple and cost-effective steps that can be taken by the company to get their culture on the right track. The ultimate goal is to embed a positive, healthy, supporting and accepting, mental health environment.

A good place to start is to tackle negative stigma surrounding mental health issues, and actively encourage all round healthy habits, by positive talk and positive affirmation, when discussing mental health.  There is little cost in building a peer support network within the business or creating safe spaces where employees can talk openly within a confidential setting about their mental health concerns. Actively promoting employees to use both of these facilities can have an enormous positive impact on the culture of the workplace.

Engaging with management and line managers to discuss basic positive mental health training, and gain support from them to assist the business in undertaking an employee wellbeing audit, can lay excellent foundations for a growing positive mental health culture.  Its also worth remembering that employees at all levels can help shape and promote positive mental health practices.  Engaging with them and conducting focus groups to better understand employee mental health needs can add a further dynamic to the reshaping of company culture.

Marks and Spencer were the first retailer to sign up to the ‘Time to Change’ employer pledge and have conversations with their employees about positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. They did this so that they could create a culture in which their employees could be themselves, be supported and be understood.

From what they learned in the conversations, they then went on to tackle metal wellbeing as a priority topic within their business, and work to stamp out the stigma surrounding mental health needs in the workplace. The company developed a three-pronged approach focusing on: awareness, signposting and upskilling. A development programme was created for their leadership team, which included mental wellbeing; trained for their HR team in Mental Health Fist Aid; creating an online hub of support materials for all staff developed with internal and external experts.

As a result, senior leaders have adopted positive principles for their areas to avoid unhealthy working habits, for example, reclaiming lunch breaks, highlighting the importance of speaking up and planning time away from desks and emails.  All of which is aimed at all employees including those with mental health needs. The Mental Wellbeing Initiative has now been launched across all of the M&S stores, distribution centres and offices and has resulted in a better understanding of mental health, a more open and supportive workplace culture, and employees know what support is available to them.

Here at Sapience, we have a wealth of information and advice available which can help your business to create a positive company culture for positive mental health.  Victoria, our HR Helpdesk Advisor is our resident expert on positive mental health in workplace.

You can contact Victoria in the office on 01736 339384 or by email to HelloThere@sapiencehr.co.uk.