How business owners can prioritise employee mental health 

Approximately one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many people are feeling more isolated and those with mental health conditions may experience worsened symptoms. As a business owner, your employees are your biggest asset. Ensuring they are happy should be your first priority because if you look after their wellbeing, profits will follow. An Oxford study found that happy employees were 13 per cent more productive, so improving mental wellbeing a no brainer for any business owner.

Understanding mental health

The best thing you can do as an employer to help promote mental health in the workplace is to understand it. In the grand scheme of things, the study of mental health is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, there is new research published every year which brings us huge steps closer to understanding it. Research institutions like King’s College, the Subramanium Study Centre and the London School of Economics regularly publish new pieces of research which you can read to better understand mental health in general. As less than a quarter of line managers receive mental health training, this will put your company in an advantageous position.

Similarly, you should educate your workforce about mental health too. Staff will benefit from receiving training about what they can do to support the wellbeing of their colleagues, what their standards of behaviour should be and how they can spot if someone in their team may be suffering from poor mental health.

If you understand mental health and your employees receive training on the topic, they will be more likely to be open and talk to you about it. This will result in fewer employee absences for mental health reasons and increased morale in the workplace.

Encourage your employees to be active

Everyone knows the benefits of improving our physical health can have on our minds and there are many ways that a business can promote physical activity for those who work there. In the UK, you could sign up for one of the many cycle to work schemes, encouraging employees to commute by bike. A study by ScienceDirect showed that aerobic exercise such as cycling can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety.

Another way to encourage activity in the workplace is to prevent employees from sitting down at their desks all day. You could introduce standing desks, as standing could burn up to 350 calories per day alone. Similarly, you could introduce walking meetings and allow exercise breaks during the day to keep them moving. All of this has the benefit of increasing their focus and alleviating stress, which will add to productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

Offer wellbeing benefits

One of the simpler ways you can prioritise employee mental health is to give your staff benefits that will positively affect their mental wellbeing. A benefit that will give a huge mental health boost is being flexible as an employer. Research found that 70% of millennial employees would like their employer to offer flexible working, so this is an effective tool for managing absences, but also improving the general quality of life for your employees. If your staff don’t need to take time off to go to the dentist or to see their child perform in a school play, they will undoubtedly be happier at work.

Offering an allowance for therapy is another great benefit to improve wellbeing in the workplace. If your company is large enough, having your own dedicated counsellor specifically for staff takes this one step further. Many employers offer these assistance programmes through a third-party administrator to stay impartial, which is crucial to their success.

There are countless more benefits that you can give, such as bonus schemes or similar, but it really all comes down to knowing your staff. Consider what would improve their wellbeing the most, because every team is going to be different.

If you and your employees understand mental health properly and you encourage them to look after their physical health too, then you should have no problems with team productivity or morale. With added mental health benefits on top, your team will be stronger than ever.