How to foster a culture of allyship that supports wellbeing in the workplace 

How to foster a culture of allyship that supports wellbeing in the workplace 

Sarah Carter, Head of Account Management at Onebright, speaks to us about mental health in the office and how employers can best reach their employees. 

There are many factors that can influence the overall well-being of an individual, including fulfilment in work, financial security, emotional and mental health. For too long, talking about mental health has been taboo, especially when people are worried about potential negative consequences once they have disclosed personal information to their employers. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, it is vitally important that business leaders learn to engage in conversations around mental health and offer the targeted support that employees need to be happy and productive in their roles.  

Results from a recent poll in the Healthier Nation Index found that 66% of people would not share their mental health struggles with their employer. It also found that despite 37% of respondents saying their mental health had worsened over the last year, a third were not offered any mental health support or emotional well-being resources in the workplace. 

For this reason, it is important that we all learn to not only recognise but overcome the barriers that may prevent people from opening up about any mental health struggles they may be facing.  

There are many factors that can cause an employee to not open and talk about their mental health struggles in the workplace. These include some common beliefs and societal perceptions, such as: 

  • That if they do, their decision-making will be questioned 
  • Fear that they will be judged if they need to take time off to overcome a mental health struggle. 
  • Colleagues will have to pick up the extra workload to support them, which will cause resentment  
  • Colleagues may treat you differently and worry about saying the wrong thing or be afraid of causing offence  

It’s time to get rid of the fear. Employers have a real opportunity to dispel these myths by making conversations surrounding mental health at work the norm.  

It all starts with the right mental health training 

Often line managers and business leaders can feel uncomfortable starting a conversation about mental health or worry about giving the ‘wrong’ response if someone does disclose their mental health issues to them.  

Basic mental health training for all employees can help dispel these fears. Providing specific training for line managers and those responsible for others’ welfare can also be invaluable.  

Mental health training for line managers should include the following:  

  • Spotting the signs – How to spot behavioural changes and symptoms if an employee suffers from mental health issues.  
  • Communication skills – How to talk about it and what words are best to use/avoid.  
  • Workplace adjustments and return to work – training for managers to help people stay at work where possible or integrate individuals back into the team for an effective and successful return to work. 

Provide ongoing support  

Once the conversation has started with an employee about mental health, it’s essential to keep it going. One solution may be to put a buddy system in place, offering employees access to those who have received mental health training or have relevant experience and can act as a friend, mentor or guide.  

More structured support may also be available. For example, corporate Private Medical Insurance policies. These can sometimes provide fully funded Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insured employees suffering from mental health issues to help prevent absence or help them recover from long-term absence.  

Partnering with a mental health provider, such as Onebright, can provide psychological support services for employees with access to a highly effective range of evidence-based psychological therapies.  

Employers who take mental health and well-being seriously send out a clear message about the organisation’s values and show that they care, respect and support their employees.  

There are so many ways that employers can improve the experience and lives of the people who work for them, and through mental health training, we can learn to be allies for our employees, so they don’t feel like they’re enduring challenges on their own.  

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