5 unique approaches to managing and supporting mental health at work

Employee Receiving Mental Health Support
Louise Fernand
Publish Date:
16 Feb 2021
Reading Time:
5 Mins

Managing and supporting mental health in the workplace can be a challenge as there is a wealth of information out there, it can be hard to decide which is the best approach to take and what will give your employees the right support – after all, there’s no one-fix solution.

Taking a positive approach to mental health at work is a step in the right direction, so here we look at 5 examples from leading UK businesses you can learn from.


1. Acknowledge problems

When it comes to supporting mental health, sometimes the best approach is to redefine the way we think about workload, what is expected from employees and acknowledging problems head-on.

Katy Leeson, Managing Director of Social Chain is well known for not shying away from controversial topics – as her podcast ‘I Shouldn’t Say This, But’ confirms, and is an advocate for mental health.

Katy has identified burnout to be a real issue in her industry. In one podcast episode, she says: “We need to stop glamorising overworking. The absence of sleep, good diet, exercise, relaxation, and time with friends and family isn't something to be applauded.”

She goes on to reveal three types of burnout, why people overwork, her own experience of it, and gives some practical tips on how to avoid overworking, and how to recover from burnout.

We’d recommend giving it a listen as a great example of addressing problems in the workplace and giving people the tools and advice to overcome them. As well as speaking out and offering advice, Katy took this a step further by offering her employees a paid day off during World Mental Health Day.


2. Culture change

One of the most effective ways you can support employees is by creating a culture that supports them to be open about their mental health.

Culture change doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t always easy to get right. However, a good start is to send a clear signal to employees that their mental health matters and being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. A simple way to communicate this is to explain that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health.

It’s also important to have a clear mental health strategy and specific policies to ensure employees experiencing mental health problems get the support they need straight away.


3. The power of talking

Lee Woolcott-Ellis, HR Mental Health Coordinator for Southeastern, knows how important it is to ensure his colleagues are supported while at work.

He said: “It can be difficult at times for our colleagues, who can directly experience encounters both positive and negative, including assaults, threats of violence and fatalities.”
Lee has a complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD) diagnosis, and is open about his experiences in both a book and in the workplace and knows how powerful talking about mental wellbeing can be.

Lee said: “Talking about my mental health changed my life and the lives of those closest to me. It has been without doubt the kindest thing I have done for myself. Cathartic, rescuing and fulfilling.”


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Appeal to people’s underlying motives


4. Flexible working

Flexible working is a term that’s been around an age – but become even more relevant now during the pandemic.

In a survey by Wildgoose, nearly 40% of people who had flexible working stated it gave marked improvements in their mental health. The survey also highlighted the importance of work/life balance and how crucial it is for employers to keep up with this demand, or risk losing staff.

Jonny Edser, Founder and Managing Director of Wildgoose said: “We understand that everyone has a life outside of work that doesn’t always fit around the typical 9-5. Trusting your employees to work at times that suit them is fundamental to maintaining productivity and employee wellbeing.”


5. Mental health and wellbeing training

As a result of severe flooding in the UK, many of Aviva's customers' properties were suddenly submerged under water, causing widespread damage. The floods also had an impact on Aviva's claims teams, who were working long hours on the ground to support customers who were understandably upset, stressed and confused after being displaced from their homes.
The emotional impact of the situation was extremely draining. Aviva recognised that their customers needed emotional support, and their employees needed support to help people in a crisis.

Working with experts at the British Red Cross, we developed training for Aviva’s field claims employees on how to deal with customers who are traumatised or have been severely impacted by a crisis that has led to an insurance claim.

Our mental health at work courses help your team to manage stress, build resilience and look after themselves and others before, during and following a crisis.

Over 95% of Aviva's customer-facing staff have completed the training, and they have told us that they are now better able to:

  • recognise customers that are traumatised (even as a result of smaller incidents that have led to a claim)
  • have the empathy and skills to support the customer
  • recognise and manage their own feelings when dealing with customers in a crisis.

And Aviva's customers have seen the benefits too, who told us: "Aviva were extremely quick to respond to us. They were helpful, sympathetic and reassuring, making a very difficult time easier to deal with."

Access to mental health training helps all employees build essential resilience skills, allowing staff to manage their mental health while working from home, or when integrating back into a workplace environment.

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Mental health & wellbeing