How to improve mental health at work: Expert tips for better employee wellbeing

March 7, 2022
June 26, 2023
Leadership And Mentoring

94% of employees recently stated they were feeling stressed! That’s why the workplace mental health conversation is one that continues to snowball at speed – and rightly so! From a practical perspective, teams that feel emotionally supported will perform at their best, deliver sharp outcomes for the business, and innovate in their industries.

Employees no longer view work as just somewhere they go to earn money – in fact, new research indicates that this is the first generation to priotise purpose over salary.

People want to feel fulfilled within their roles, and employee mental health is critical to this. In a time where businesses are witnessing more resignations than ever before, employers can no longer treat employee wellbeing as an afterthought. People feeling supported at work has shifted from luxury to necessity.

However, according to CIPD, just 27% feel their organisation is ‘much more reactive than proactive’ in this area – a fall from 41% in the previous year.

We brought experts James, Lauren and Will together to discuss the importance of prioritising wellbeing within startup organisations, so that you can be on the front foot of tackling it. We also discussed how mental health can become a priority in fast-paced companies which are time-poor and target driven.

Four things you can do today to improve your wellbeing strategy

What employee support isn’t – Finding on-brand perks for a hybrid world

The biggest trap a business can fall into is wasting time on performative actions. Free office fruit isn’t an employee benefit, it’s a gesture as hollow as our promises to finally eat our five-a-day!

And an afterthought email sent on World Mental Health Day is really no use to anybody. Worst of all, your employees will smell the BS a mile off! Worried your efforts fall into this category? Start by looking at the rate of engagement with your initiatives, this is a great way to track employee sentiment.

Another pitfall is not putting measures in place to prevent burnout. Employees in high-growth companies often have their nose to the grindstone and need to wear multiple hats to get things done. Combine this with remote working and you’ll find that people work into the evening as well as weekends, with increased difficulty switching off.

How to get buy-in for your employee support strategy

To successfully implement any kind of initiative, you first need to get your leaders on board. But if you want to convince them to dedicate resources to wellbeing initiatives, start by putting together a business case.

The first step is to think about how your stakeholders like to be convinced. Work out what metrics matter most to them – whether it’s turnover, staff satisfaction measures, Glassdoor reviews, or something else entirely – and make the case that with additional resources you will be able to improve these areas.

It’s also about personal relationships! You can drive wellbeing across teams by treating leaders in the same way you hope they will treat their team, making time for catch ups about non-work related conversations in an authentic way, and making it clear that you care about how they’re doing.

Once you start opening up these conversations with senior leaders it will begin to click that they should be doing the same thing. Being a leader can be very isolating at times, so treating those in senior positions with kindness and compassion can have a ripple effect across the organisation.

Overcoming the budget barrier in startups and fast-growing companies

Startups rarely have substantial budgets for employee benefits around wellbeing, but the need is higher than ever before. However, even if you know that there’s little budget available that doesn’t mean you should just give up!

You can still build a world-class mental health approach in your workplace for nothing. One of the biggest things that impacts our mental health at work is the quality of our relationships. Managers checking in with their teams and asing ‘how are you?’ costs nothing. Similarly, creating a Slack channel where people can talk about what they’re doing for their mental health can be done at no additional budget. What else can you think of?

Another incredibly effective (and free) tool is just to listen. Even if you’re not able to immediately offer up a bunch of solutions, letting someone know that they’re being listened to and that you’re aware of their problems can make someone feel better regardless. It’s these small steps that eventually create a big impact.

Similarly, taking control of your own wellbeing and putting rituals in place for yourself is both free and effective. Start by focussing on what you can do for your own mental health and let other people know you’re doing this – this is a brilliant way to create long term change within your organisation.

Establishing Impact so that you can truly make a difference

Let’s not beat around the bush, there’s absolutely no point in pouring resources into something that doesn’t work.

Measuring the impact of a new mental health initiative is incredibly important, but what metrics should you look at? There are so many options and there certainly isn’t a one size fits all answer here, but sickness, type of sickness, employee surveys, management approval ratings, turnover, and business results are all examples of things you could choose to measure.

The key is to commit to monitoring at least one of these things so that you can see whether any initiatives are making a difference.

It’s also important that anyone who is involved in the implementation of wellbeing initiatives is clear on what the expectations are of them, and whether it’s time commitment or output, their manager also needs to be aligned with this. To keep perspectives within the project fresh we also recommend cycling the team every quarter or six months so that other people within the business have the opportunity to make an impact.

A final word on improving employee wellbeing

We hope we’ve done a great job of articulating that you don’t have to have a big budget in order to put measures in place that your employees will truly benefit from.

Something as simple as encouraging all managers to listen more closely when they ask ‘how are you doing?’ could have massive ripple effects throughout your organisation – so start by making one change this week and see where that takes you.