Creating a supportive workplace culture is critical to keeping people in work

Last month, the Government’s consultation into Occupational Health services for businesses closed. The consultation has many aims, but one of the main ones is to look at how we can eradicate long-term sickness and get people back into work.

Only 45% of employees have access to Occupational Health services through their current job, and musculoskeletal and mental health conditions are the two biggest drivers of staff absences and economic inactivity in the UK.

At Onebright, we work with partners, including occupational health providers, to provide specialist psychological support to individuals where their health has been impacted by occupational factors, or their health is impacting on their ability to perform their role.

This has many benefits to the individual, as continuing to work gives people a sense of purpose and it can lead to quicker recovery. For businesses, you can retain an individual within the workforce, and this supports higher productivity, employee engagement, and retention.

The Government’s consultation looks at Occupational Health in two parts:

“Occupational Health: Working Better” – which proposes to increase employer use of Occupational Health services through a national health at work standard to provide a baseline for quality Occupational Health provision and includes guidance and best practice sharing for employers and accreditation.

“Tax incentives for Occupational Health” – which specifically seeks views on providing further support through expanding the Benefit in Kind exemption for medical benefits, to encourage greater employer provision of occupational health services.

We are supportive of any Government proposals that help more people to stay fit and well, and that supports businesses to provide the right care for their employees.

Whilst it will be some time before the outcomes of the consultation are shared, there are initiatives that businesses and HR teams can look to implement that will help to support employee mental health and keep individuals in work, as well as help people back into work if they have been off sick.

Here are three things your business can implement to support your workforce’s mental health.

Leadership training

Line managers and business leaders can often feel uncomfortable starting a conversation about mental health or worry about giving the ‘wrong’ response if someone does disclose their mental health issues to them. Providing specific training for line managers and those responsible for others’ welfare can be invaluable. Mental health training for line managers could include:

  • Spotting the signs – How to spot behavioural changes and symptoms if an employee suffers from mental health issues.
  • Communication skills – How to talk about it and what words are best to use/avoid.
  • Workplace adjustments and return to work – training for managers to help people stay at work where possible or integrate individuals back into the team for an effective and successful return to work.

Workplace mental health strategy and policy

When companies recognise the importance of mental health in the workplace and invest in comprehensive mental health programmes and policies, businesses reap the financial and wellbeing benefits of a more supportive and productive work environment.

The first step businesses can take is to conduct a mental health audit with the guidance of a mental health consultant. A mental health audit provides a customised workforce survey and review, ranging from a quick temperature check of organisational wellbeing to a detailed screening of current staff mental health. From there, an audit can direct and inform a mental health policy and strategy under the recommendations of a mental health expert.

Create a supportive workplace culture

A positive work environment can improve our mental health, and people who feel supported by their employer and co-workers are less likely to experience mental health issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety.

Foster a supportive company culture at all levels - encouraging open communication, providing support for mental health, and creating safe spaces for employees to discuss mental health concerns.

Re-evaluate workplace norms and support individuals to balance work and personal responsibilities.

Provide access to mental health resources: Do your employees know where, or who, to turn to during times of increased mental pressure? Perhaps a worker lost a family member or is undergoing a life-changing diagnosis. Are there easily accessible resources communicated to everyone within the company?