Creating a mental health plan for a healthy and productive workplace

Employes Talking With Each Other During Break
Louise Fernand
Publish Date:
20 Sep 2023
Reading Time:
5 Mins

The impact of poor mental health in the workplace has been well documented in recent years. As well as its effects on the individual, the impact on organisations, the economy and society are severe, and according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 17.1 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2022/23.

Considering how much of our waking time we spend in work, on average, it’s little wonder that the workplace can have such a significant impact on mental health. That’s why it’s ever more important that workplaces consider implementing a mental health and wellbeing strategy that is well thought out, has buy-in from leadership, and can make a real and tangible difference to how employees feel.

Creating, implementing and communicating such a plan, if your organisation doesn’t already have a mental health plan, can feel daunting. But luckily, there are simple steps you can take to make a start.


What is your duty of care as an employer?

It’s important to remember that the law requires employers to tackle work-related stress. It's crucial to treat mental health in the workplace as you would first aid requirements within your organisation, and plan the training you require accordingly.

2024 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance introduces the inclusion of mental health considerations within first aid needs assessments to identify training requirements, and references the six 'Core Standards' for managing mental health at work.

These standards are set out in Thriving at Work, an independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, and should be referred to when developing your wellbeing plan.

The review suggested that employers can and should:

  1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan.
  2. Develop mental health awareness among employees.
  3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.
  4. Provide your employees with good working conditions.
  5. Promote effective people management.
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

Each workplace will need to approach their legal responsibilities differently to make sure it meets their organisational needs.


Developing a workplace mental health plan: how do I start?

Ensuring that you have support from all levels is a good place to start. It’s important that the necessity of positive wellbeing in the workplace is recognised at all levels, so all parties feel included and invested.

Build a case for your mental health and wellbeing strategy that includes the business benefits as well as the individual benefits and looks at how the wellbeing initiatives you’re planning align with corporate goals. Improved wellbeing at work can lead to a reduction in absence and associated costs, increased productivity and staff retention, all of which have inarguable benefits to your organisation.


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What should I include in my mental health plan?

There are countless steps you can take to have a positive impact on your employees’ wellbeing. Here are just a few of the areas your plan could cover:

Awareness and education

An important factor to consider is how you will foster a culture of openness about mental health. Despite the fact that one in four of us will experience mental health problems at some time in our lives, there is still a stigma attached to mental health. This can result in employees hiding their feelings and avoiding telling others or seeking treatment and support.

Finding ways to normalise the conversation is key to encouraging others to share when they are finding things hard. This could be by proactively bringing conversations about mental health into 1:1 meetings or team meetings, or speaking regularly to employees to find out how they’re doing. You could even invite internal or external speakers to share their own mental health experiences as hearing from others who have experienced difficulties is an important step in normalising the conversation.

Our range of face-to-face, virtual and online Mental health at work courses have numerous benefits for staff. Red Cross Training offers six short, interactive mental health and wellbeing courses  which are designed to build both team and individual resilience and help staff members return to and maintain a state of positive mental wellbeing.


Understanding the triggers

Understanding the factors that can have an impact on mental health in the workplace is key to your plan. Talking to your employees, whether it’s via surveys, polls, focus groups or consultations, is a good place to start.

There are many triggers in the workplace, with common ones including unmanageable workloads, long working hours, lone working, lack of communication and poor relationships with colleagues or managers. What are the main pressure points within your organisation, and what plans could you put in place to help?


Mental health resources

Providing employees with the right tools to help, and making sure they know how to access them, can make a big difference. You should ensure you are regularly signposting them to areas of support both inside and outside the organisation, whether that’s an employee assistance programme (EAP) if you have one, counselling services, or mental health helplines.


Communication and support

Creating an open and supportive culture in which people can raise concerns is a crucial part of every organisation's mental health plan.

Admittedly, it is not always easy for people to discuss mental health. But with internal communication channels being used more frequently, it is easier than ever for management to arrange meetings with their staff, and conversely, for staff to communicate with their line managers.

Remember, this is not restricted to your staff disclosing their issues; team members need to express their concerns if they think other members of staff are potentially at risk, so necessary steps can be taken to provide support and guidance.

Adopting a communication-based culture can improve trust amongst co-workers, and will hopefully encourage others to follow suit and discuss any mental health challenges they could be facing in a supportive and safe environment.


Evaluate and improve

Your plan should include clear objectives, and you should make sure you’re regularly evaluating and improving, keeping employees included and engaged with the discussions and planning.

Having a proactive mental health action plan for your workplace, with which employees are engaged, is a positive way to make sure your staff feel supported, resilient and motivated.

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