Beyond HR – Mental health in the workplace is a team effort

Beyond HR – Mental health in the workplace is a team effort

Mental health has never been more important. It’s a message we all hear (and see) through every possible channel from social media and television to newspapers and websites. But knowing it’s a problem isn’t enough, changes need to be made within our organisations that are adopted, understood and celebrated by everyone. Cigna Healthcare is committed to supporting mental health and is encouraging business leaders to take the 5% Pledge and to commit 5% of annual working hours to employee mental health support. By signing up to the Pledge, you will be allowing yourself the time to focus on building a workplace culture built on openness, transparency, and compassion that will benefit everyone.
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It’s important to recognise that creating a culture of well-being is not the sole responsibility of your HR department, it requires company-wide effort. Here we explore how to get everyone involved in making changes that will positively impact the whole organisation.

CULTURE: Nurture an ‘all-in’ mentality

Communicating the benefits of the 5% Pledge to the business as a whole, is the key to success when it comes to improving mental health in the workplace. Change isn’t going to happen if just a handful of individuals commit to a new way of thinking and working. It must be something the company adopts as a whole for it to have meaningful impact. This means from the outset, it should be clear that this is something to be adopted by everyone, for the benefit of everyone – the Pledge will of course be of benefit to individuals, but it will also create a positive culture too. Outlining what can be achieved by an ‘all-in’ mentality from the start is key to success and lasting change.

ROLES & RESPONSIBILITY: Everyone is an agent for change

Talk specifics. This isn’t just a concept to be given airtime in company meetings, it will be difficult to make everyone feel as if change is happening without explaining the what, why, when and how. Exactly how is this going to work – what milestones are in place? What does success look like? There could be general changes, new initiatives implemented that are then applied to the everyday working life, but what else? What is the specific role of an employee in making this change? Are you open to new ideas that could help create a company-wide positive mental mindset? With the increase in hybrid working, and the subsequent reduction of face-to-face time between colleagues, it could be as simple as reminding people to check in on their co-workers. Everyone has a role to play in this, but they may need reminding what that role looks like.

PRECONCEPTIONS: Address the mental health stigma

Start with the facts. To understand the need for change, people have to know there’s a problem, and it could be one that’s not seen. Share the facts about mental health in the workplace. Cigna’s 360 Global Well-being Survey 2022 revealed that 84% of all employees said they are stressed, and 98% experienced symptoms of work burnout. That stress impacts on everything in the workplace from productivity to presenteeism. Explain the reality of poor mental health, that it’s a problem shared by many, if not everyone, at some stage; that it manifests itself in many ways; and that it’s the responsibility of everyone to make the workplace more aligned with positive mental health practices. 

EVERYDAY HABITS: Create a positive environment that supports employee mental health

Your work environment needs to be set up for change. This means creating opportunities for positive interaction between employees and being aware of the pressure points of the working life in your company. And, more importantly, this isn’t just about making changes for a week, a month, or even a year, but making permanent changes that create a consistent, ongoing, positive attitude to mental well-being in your workplace. Flexibility is key, as a structure that’s too rigid won’t allow for the different nuances between employee’s mental health challenges – are you ready to be flexible enough to future-proof the well-being of your company?

LEAD BY EXAMPLE: Leadership commitment drives company-wide change 

When any initiative begins, a CEO or senior manager is often at the spearhead of the change – a visual figurehead who explains the reason and need for change. But what then? One team meeting and carefully worded ‘send to all’ email doesn’t make for inspirational leadership. That leaders are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, is essential for success – find ways to consistently communicate how your management is embracing change.  Even implementing something as simple as a monthly update can make a difference. Coming from the desk/laptop of the CEO, it could include well-being advice and relay any progress that’s been achieved within the business. A brief message that just highlights this isn’t company PR, this is something that’s here to stay – a company-wide, well-being-first mindset.

TEAMWORK: Reward mutual support and collective commitment

‘Okay, but what do we get out of it?’. Individuals in companies that commit to the Pledge will undoubtedly benefit, but it may not be obvious to all. This is an ongoing journey, and milestones should be celebrated. It could be as simple as publicly rewarding those that have shown a commitment to the new way of working or continually celebrating the company-wide change in an open forum. If you can see change happening – or even just the small steps towards change – then make sure people take note. When you take the 5% Pledge you’re making a public commitment to everyone in your organisation that you advocate for mental well-being. Make it something they want to be part of too.