How Entrepreneurs Can Reduce Mental Health Stigma at Work

As World Mental Health Day approaches we can take stock of our progress in raising awareness of the causes of mental ill-health and how they can be tackled. There is much to be proud of; in recent years more employees have been seeking help for mental health problems, and more employers have been providing support. The conversation has gone from one held largely in secret to one discussed openly in global business forums. It is now widely agreed that the problem exists and needs tackling.

However, even now there are some alarming statistics about the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace:

  • 1 in 5 people take a day off due to stress, yet 90% of these people cited a different reason for their absence
  • 15% of employees who disclosed mental health issues to their line manager reported being disciplined, dismissed or demoted
  • 84% of UK line managers believe they are responsible for employee wellbeing, but only 24% have received training. 49% of line managers reported a wish for basic training in common mental health conditions

Source: MHFA England

While this is a harrowing view of the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health in the workplace, it doesn’t have to be the norm. Entrepreneurs are leading the way when it comes to changing attitudes towards employee wellbeing.

Addressing Mental Health Stigma at Work

Mike Grindy is the founder of three businesses: eco-friendly rubbish removal service Junkwize, waterless car wash company Dropless and digital agency Passion Digital. He believes that a duty of care to employees is key to business success.

“With over 40 employees at Passion Digital, I wanted to build a workplace where everyone feels willing and able to discuss their mental health in confidence and without judgement. We have worked hard to develop positive wellbeing initiatives over the past few years and listened closely to feedback from staff to make sure that the office is a productive, safe and happy work environment.”

“Chill out space” at Passion Digital

So what exactly can you do to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health at work and open up the conversation with your employees?

Mental Health Initiatives in the Workplace

Here are a few changes you can make to your work environment in order to foster employee wellbeing. Some of the initiatives require budget allocations that smaller businesses may not be able to afford, but many of the suggestions here can be implemented at little cost and yet reap a considerable reward in terms of workforce positivity and productivity.

Positive Management Style

The key to fostering a positive management style is to believe that people want to work and that they want to do a good job. It is a people-centred approach that sees employees as individuals with different needs, work styles and contributions.

  • Employment recognition schemes allow staff to commend their colleagues and reward positive results, hard work and team players
  • Flexible working hours enable employees to work to a schedule that suits them
  • Time off for specialist therapy without judgement and support when returning to the workplace

Healthy Body

It is universally acknowledged that physical health is important for general wellbeing, but employers can go further in giving their staff the time and space to exercise or the opportunity to eat or work healthily.

  • Healthy snacks and fresh fruit in the office ensure that employees have access to nutritious food
  • Subsidised gym membership encourages regular exercise that may have been sacrificed otherwise due to time or money worries
  • Weekly yoga classes and massages help with the release of stress and keep the body in good physical shape
  • Standing desks alleviate the risks of diabetes and heart disease associated with those who spend the majority of their time sitting down

Healthy Mind

The human brain is only able to be productive for around three hours per day, which makes the need for regular breaks abundantly clear. All of the initiatives listed below are proven to help reduce stress and increase positivity in the workplace.

  • Chill out spaces allow employees to take a break from work and from screen glare
  • Office pets encourage short walks, play time and comic relief
  • Desk plant allowances clean the air, reduce noise levels and add greenery to the office environment
  • Paid leave to do charity work allows employees to feel they have the space and the permission to give back

Support and Training

It’s important that employees feel that they can discuss their mental health problems and that managers feel they are equipped with the tools to understand and support those who reach out for help.

  • In-house training on subjects such as mental health, support, resilience and emotional intelligence raise awareness within the company
  • One-to-one check-ins allow staff to discuss matters confidentially

Not only are these initiatives a great way to improve employee wellbeing and reduce mental health stigma at work - they also make your business an attractive proposition for new employees. Times are changing, and good mental health provision is an important factor for job hunters. Will your company make the cut?

By the team at Passion Digital, for the Small Business Charter on World Mental Health Day 2019.