By Nelly Mohale, Head of Decusatio Human Capital Solutions

 

Did you know that 81% of workers globally believe that good mental health is more important than a high salary? Yet, despite the increasing awareness around mental health, many businesses fail to prioritise it within their company culture. Yes, World Mental Health Awareness Month is only in October, and it is a great initiative, but it’s important for businesses to understand that one month of recognition is not enough. To truly make a difference in the mental health of employees, companies need to build a healthy company culture that prioritises mental health all year round, and what better time to start than at the beginning of the year?

The importance of prioritising employee mental health

Research shows that leaders have a significant impact on an employee’s mental health, even more so than their doctor or therapist. This highlights the vital role of leadership in creating a positive work environment. By focusing on mental health, leaders within businesses not only enhance employee well-being but also unlock their full potential – positively contributing to company culture.

Let’s have a look at some of the ways leaders can get involved to ensure mental health is a priority in the organisation.

 

Prioritise mental health education across the board

Education is crucial in developing a culture that supports mental health, not just for employees but also for leaders. Leaders should allocate resources towards mental health awareness initiatives that educate and empower everyone in the organisation, creating a shared understanding and empathy towards mental health challenges. This will help to lessen the stigma and increase empathy towards those facing mental health challenges. Ultimately, leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for mental health in the workplace and, by leading by example, they can influence a culture that prioritises mental health.

 

Formulate and implement a clear mental health policy

Leaders should initiate the development of a comprehensive mental health policy in the workplace for several reasons. Firstly, it signifies a dedication to employee well-being, promoting a culture that is supportive and empathetic. Openly addressing mental health concerns helps to reduce the stigma associated with it and encourages employees to seek treatment when needed. Secondly, these policies provide clear guidelines for addressing mental health issues, ensuring that all employees receive fair and consistent support. When implemented consistently, this will result in a mentally healthy workforce that is more productive, engaged, and innovative – ultimately benefiting the entire organisation by improving employee performance and retention, as well as creating a positive work environment.

Actively promote work-life balance

Actively promoting a work-life balance has become increasingly important, especially with employees prioritising a balanced lifestyle over their income. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the working culture, leading to a preference for flexible working arrangements that support a healthy work-life balance. Offering flexible working conditions is not sufficient; company leaders must actively encourage this balance by making flexibility mandatory. Simple actions, such as encouraging employees to utilise their leave and ensuring they take breaks, can significantly reduce burnout and stress. Leading by example, managers should also take breaks and avoid excessive overtime, demonstrating the importance of a well-rounded life.

 

Create a safe space in the workplace

Creating a safe and supportive workplace environment is crucial for prioritising mental health. Cultivating a sense of community and belonging can significantly enhance the well-being of employees. This can be achieved through promoting open communication, organising social gatherings, and participating in team-building exercises. When employees feel connected to their peers and supported by their organisation, they are more likely to seek help and openly share their challenges. Additionally, providing dedicated spaces for rest, meditation, or even a short nap, can further improve mental health and contribute to a positive workplace culture.

Prioritising mental health within companies is essential for creating a mentally fit workforce. Leaders can play a significant role by prioritising mental health education, formulating clear mental health policies, promoting work-life balance, and creating a safe space in the workplace. It is imperative for leaders in companies to prioritise mental health all year round to create a healthy and supportive work environment and build a positive company culture. Ultimately, a mentally healthy workforce leads to increased productivity, engagement, and innovation, benefiting the overall success of the company.

Nelly Mohale is Head of Decusatio Human Capital. She works with high-growth businesses to identify talent that can positively contribute to all elements of the organisation.