Mental health is finally starting to get the attention it needs in society. As our Issue Spotlight: Workplace Mental Health revealed, it’s high on the Government’s agenda and has drawn in a range of stakeholders across MPs, charity and business.
It’s also a major issue in PR and comms, which is why PRWeek asked a question about mental health to its most influential comms professionals in the Power Book 2019. The question, ‘What key practical step can your organisation take to improve staff mental health?’ produced answers covering a range of helpful advice for anyone working, or managing, in communications today.
1. ‘Restricting out-of-working-hours emails and calls where possible’
This comes from James Herring, CEO and co-founder of Taylor Herring, but it’s a popular tip throughout the Power Book. While some answers discuss different ways to create a digital detox, limit specific hours or even offer in-house apps that encourage staff to switch off (that last one’s at Frank), ultimately they’re all saying the same thing – when you’re not at work, don’t be at work.
2. ‘Create a culture in which mental health is spoken about and dealt with in the same way as physical health’
Sarah Hall, former president of the CIPR, makes this point, which many work places are still struggling to implement. We easily accept people’s inability to come into work or perform their best when struck with physical illness but there’s a gap where mental health is not understood in the same way. By talking openly and treating it as you would any other illness, mental health becomes less stigmatised and those that need help are more able to get it.
3. ‘We offer free financial-planning clinics’
This is one of a range of perks Mark Flanagan, UK MD at Portland outlines and one which could do a great deal for the mental health of many. There are lots of links between mental ill health and financial problems – in many cases both negatively feed off each other making each situation worse. Good financial planning, which is often a service not available to most, helps people avoid this spiral.
4. ‘Put personal needs at the heart of development plans’
Ella Dorley-Brown, MD at The Academy, makes this suggestion. It’s often easy to make development plans with the business in mind and the many ways to achieve those goals, but if we develop people with their needs in mind we will have happier, more productive staff and that will ultimately help achieve the business goals.
5. ‘We are rolling out Mental Health First Aider training’
A number of those interviewed have said they have Mental Health First Aiders in their companies and agencies. Anna Bartle, vice-president, corporate affairs at The Estée Lauder Companies UK and Ireland, goes on to say that these First Aiders will ‘spot the symptoms of mental-health issues if they occur, offer initial help and guide a person towards support.’ Having other staff looking out for colleagues is a great way to make the environment at work more supportive and more understanding of mental health issues. Even if you don’t have officially designated First Aiders, training for staff to help spot those in need could make a world of difference to someone’s life.
6. ‘Create safe spaces for people to talk about their lives without fear that it might impact their prospects’
This one is from Greg Beales, director of campaigns, policy and comms at Shelter. It highlights the stigma still attached to mental health in the workplace whereby many people feel they can’t speak up, which ultimately will make things worse. If your culture allows people to talk about it without any fear of retribution, it will improve the mental health of the whole company.
7. ‘Offer flexible working hours and a choice of work location’
Said by Shakila Ahmed, comms director at Travelodge, this is another popular point raised throughout the Power Book. While some go as far as four-day work weeks or unlimited holiday, it doesn’t have to be that much of a change to make a big difference. Adapting to meet the needs of each staff member will often get the best out of them; if you have the flexibility to manage everyone individually, it will not only improve mental health but also increase productivity and performance.
…and finally, a plea
We were struck by Simon Enright, Director of comms at the NHS’s answer, which included a plea. He said: ‘We were grateful to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for donating a mental-health garden to Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust. Can anyone donate another to each NHS Mental Health Trust in the country?’
How does your company or agency improve mental health at work? Let us know on Twitter @Vuelio.