What does a mentally healthy workplace look like?

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Research tells us that workplaces that invest in wellbeing initiatives enjoy increased productivity, have more engaged and happier staff, and are more profitable. 

For many of us, where we work is part of the very fabric of our lives. It’s the place where we spend a great deal of time – where we socialise, learn, earn, grow and sometimes get stressed out!  

Basically our work environment can have a big influence on our overall wellbeing.  

We’ve looked at what employers and organisations can do to create a mentally healthy workplace. 

The Working Well toolkit identifies three main things organisations can do: 

  • Maintain a positive organisational environment 
  • Address mental health concerns 
  • Promote positive mental health. 

While there is no one size fits all approach to supporting workplace wellbeing, addressing these three elements can help create a mentally healthy workplace.    

Maintain a positive organisational environment 

Maintaining a positive environment is about creating a workplace culture with people at its centre. This is about valuing and prioritising staff wellbeing through a range of initiatives, big and small, including: 

  • Policies that respect all genders, sexualities, cultures, and religions 
  • Creating a safe working environment  ( explored further under ‘Promote Positive Mental Health’) 
  • Creating a sense of the social value of the work 
  • Supporting staff to have a good work-life balance 
  • Supporting employee satisfaction. 

Here are some helpful tips from The New Economics Foundation [NEF] for maintaining a positive organisational environment: 

  • Getting the right work-life balance is a great way of avoiding stress at work. 
  • Working with employees to ensure they have a sense that their job is achievable can lead to greater job satisfaction, as well as higher levels of morale. 
  • Management behaviour is important, with some management styles more successful than others at strengthening wellbeing at work. 
  • Creating a safe working environment and a sense of the social value of the work of the organisation, may increase employees’ feelings of job satisfaction. 
  • Good levels of job-fit and skill-use, and opportunities to develop new skills, can create high levels of employee satisfaction. 
  • Helping employees to take greater control over their work can lead to better performance and greater job satisfaction. 
  • Taking steps to improve relationships at work – with a particular focus on relationships between staff and managers – and encouraging positive feelings can improve both job and life satisfaction. 

Address mental health concerns 

The key to addressing mental health concerns is acknowledging they can exist in the first place. They can be caused by outside influences in a staff member’s life or in response to a workplace cultural or environmental situation. 

For organisations to be effectively responsive they need to maintain a proactive, fair and empathetic approach to mental health concerns, including mental illness. 

They need to ensure employees know about, and have access to, employee assistance programmes (EAP). 

It’s also a good idea to promote or be able to inform employees about the local support services in their area.

Promote positive mental health 

Here’s the fun stuff. There are a range of ways to support employees that boost positive mental health and wellbeing. 

This can be done through a range fun activities and suggestions, and even through the structural design of the workplace, including: 

  • Walking meetings  
  • Standing desks 
  • Healthy snack options and catering at workplace functions 
  • Putting some scooters in the office  
  • Workplace yoga or mindfulness sessions 
  • Bike racks 
  • Subsidised gym memberships 
  • Showers and changing facilities 
  • Well-lit stairs 
  • Exercise/fitness groups (informal lunch-time walking groups)  
  • Flexi-time. 

Where appropriate staff education on stress management, smoking cessation, weight management and nutrition can be of assistance. Flexible, family friendly policies and facilities, health screenings, workplace safety briefings, back/neck care, CPR and first aid classes are also aspects of a health promoting workplace. 

Five Ways to Wellbeing  

A review by the New Economics Foundation in the UK  of the most up-to-date evidence about what supports wellbeing, has found that building five actions into our day to day lives will give our wellbeing a boost. The five ways to wellbeing are: 

  • Connect, me whakawhanaunga  
  • Give, tukua 
  • Take notice, me aro tonu 
  • Keep learning, me ako tonu 
  • Be active, me kori tonu 

And yes, these can be incorporated into a work day and used to support staff.


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