Five ways to make mental health a board priorityby
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Research indicates that at least 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem during their lifetime. However, by raising awareness and offering the right support at work, employers can plan for and mitigate the impact of mental health issues in the workplace, helping them to retain the valuable skills and experience of affected staff.
Good mental health should be a priority for the whole business, and implementing it needs to involve more than just the HR department. It’s vital to get buy-in from senior leadership and make sure conversations about mental health and wellbeing happen at board level. Here are five ways to get your board on side.
Show the business impact
Senior leaders are understandably under increased pressure to cut costs and optimise return on investment, and may not immediately understand the business impact of poor mental health. Be prepared to make the business case and have figures to back this up. Come prepared with figures on staff turnover and morale, and bring relevant feedback from exit interviews.
Agree clear targets
We all work better if we have clear goals that we are working towards, and mental health in the workplace is no different. Identify the key drivers and indicators for mental health, find a way to measure these, work out what progress the business needs to achieve, and make sure these are an integral part of your company’s performance targets.
Time it right
Consider the best times to start a conversation with the board and get their buy-in. There are some important dates throughout the year which can help to get the conversation started, including Mental Health Awareness Week in May and World Mental Health Day in October. There are also many internal milestones that can help to put mental health on the agenda like board meetings, staff surveys, staff absence reports. Think about the times in the year when your business is busiest and staff are under the most stress, so you can raise the issue ahead of time.
Find a champion
It helps to enlist a board member as your mental health champion – someone who will raise the issue at the highest levels of the business. It may be they have experienced a mental health problem themselves, or they may simply be passionate about looking after staff. They can also help to lead by example, encouraging more junior employees to think about their mental wellbeing at work.
Encourage open conversation
Mental health is still a taboo subject in the workplace. 67% of employees feel scared, embarrassed or unable to talk about mental health concerns with their employer. To break this taboo and create an open and caring culture it’s important to get your board on side and take a top down approach. If they are speaking out on the issue, perhaps even drawing on their own experience, then this attitude will trickle down to managers and then staff.