Guest blog: How to improve workplace culture to help combat mental wellbeing absence

Guest blog by BSA Associate, Benenden Health

Cultural problems in workplaces are fuelling absences due to poor mental wellbeing. Figures from Benenden Health research tell an alarming story: this year, more than 11 million UK adults took time off work due to poor mental wellbeing.

Of the 1,000 UK employees we surveyed, just 38% felt able to be honest with their employer when it came to taking time off for mental wellbeing. 29% would cite a physical health problem, whilst 24% would voluntarily take annual leave to avoid the conversation altogether.

So how can you de-stigmatise mental wellbeing absence? Here are some of the actionable changes we have encouraged within Benenden Health to improve our workplace culture and support the mental wellbeing of our employees…

1. Wellness action plans

Encourage your team to take some time out to build a wellness action plan. This plan will help them elaborate how they feel and articulate what they look like to the outside world at both their best, and when they’re struggling. The plan allows them to consider how their managers and colleagues can help when they’re not at their best.

2. Mental Health First Aiders

We strongly recommend appointing Mental Health First Aiders, who are trained to talk about mental wellbeing, intervene in a crisis and are highly approachable to colleagues. When we introduced Mental Health First Aiders into Benenden Health, the first 18 months saw them help in over 20 cases of colleagues whose mental wellbeing was in jeopardy.

3. Training for managers

It’s important to take the time to train managers to spot the signs of poor mental wellbeing and to instil in them the confidence to have a conversation with team members who need some assistance.

4. Resilience training

It can be all too easy to assume that your team is already equipped to deal with changes to working patterns, responsibilities and the wider socio-economic environment. However, it pays to offer training in professional resilience, to afford each one of your team the emotional toolkit to better adjust to change. This is particularly pertinent as we write this piece during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our colleagues, here at Benenden Health, have found this training has helped them with tools and strategies to deal with life stresses outside of the workplace too.

5. Job fulfilment measures

Mental wellbeing on the job is largely modulated by how satisfied people feel in their role. You can take steps to improve their sense of satisfaction, including a proper career plan and reviews. Bring fulfilment full circle by introducing appreciation rituals. These can be as simple as a “shout out Friday” or a monthly call-out from one colleague to another for being helpful. Ultimately, it’s nice to feel appreciated and valued.

6. Physical health action plan

Training and tools to facilitate exercise and better sleep should be a given: the link between physical and mental health is inextricable. Introducing team-led initiatives, such as which team can take the most steps, takes the hard work out of exercise and provides a further platform for camaraderie.

Find out how Benenden Healthcare for Business could support your employees by visiting the Benenden Health website or calling for free on 0808 301 1599.