For Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, Jackie Dane (Chief People Officer at La Fosse) discusses the growing importance of prioritising mental health in the workplace.

As our founder, Simon La Fosse, advocates;

“Today more than ever, mental health needs to be a priority for all leadership teams. My employees’ wellbeing is something I’ve always been very conscious of, and as a business, we’re constantly looking for new ways to support everyone at La Fosse in bringing their best selves to work. It’s an undisputed fact that when employees feel their mental health needs are being met, they are better placed to look after their customers – putting your people’s wellbeing first is not just the right thing to do, it’s better for business.”

In today’s hybrid working culture, it’s more important than ever for organisations to recognise the impact that mental health has on every aspect of life and start prioritising their employees’ wellbeing. We’ve compiled five key factors to include when developing or reviewing your mental health strategy, and some tips to help you get there.

One size doesn’t fit all

When developing your workplace mental health strategy, it’s important to remember that mental health looks different for everyone. To ensure inclusivity, your policy should reflect and address the needs of each individual’s needs within the business.

For some, this means communication – offering the opportunity to talk with a therapist or have a one-to-one session with someone within your HR team. For others, it may mean having a flexible time off policy so people can take a short break when they feel their mental health slipping.

We recommend using surveys, mental health risk assessments, employee focus groups and/or online tools to gain insight into your workforce’s needs before creating a plan from which to build your strategy. But initial research is not enough – to ensure you’re able to measure how well you’re catering to employees needs and alter plans accordingly, it’s highly beneficial to send a regular pulse survey to all employees.

Make mental health a part of your culture

Create, implement, and consciously communicate a benefits plan which promotes positive mental health and outlines the support available for those who need it. Without proper communication of your offering, some people will assume there is nothing in place and be less likely to reach out.

Fostering a culture of care is a huge priority for us at La Fosse. A few ways we promote a healthy work-life balance is through regular social activities, cultural trips to museums and exhibitions, and a range of internal clubs and networks. These activities really help people get away from their desks and have time to socialise and bond with people across the business.

As well as offering physical health benefits such as weekly massages and gym passes, we also address mental health directly through a range of externally provided partnerships. These include a BUPA Healthy Minds 24/7 telephone helpline, a qualified hypnotherapist, and Sanctus wellbeing coaches.

Ensure full backing and championing from leadership

For a mental health strategy to succeed, full leadership backing is essential – when leaders are openly discussing mental health, employees are more likely to feel comfortable doing the same. As well as training managers on how to start conversations on mental health and teaching them the right skills needed to deal with different situations that might arise within their teams, having regular check-ins between them and your HR function not only helps you spot gaps in your strategy, but also in turn provides further support to those managers.

Educate employees on how to understand and help each other

Although it is first and foremost the organisation’s responsibility to support its employees by training managers and making mental health information, tools, and support readily accessible to all employees, employee-led mental health schemes can also be beneficial. One such way that we have employed is through training up volunteer Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) with MHFA England – these volunteers act as a friendly face for a confidential chat about mental health and have been trained to spot early signs of distress, provide mental health ‘first aid’, and signpost people to the appropriate source of help and support.

Celebrate wins

Workload and workplace contribute massively to an individual’s mental state and wellbeing. As well as creating a stable, supportive environment for employees, it’s also important to recognise and celebrate success, ensuring people feel appreciated and motivated to keep working hard.

There are plenty of ways to do this, from sharing successes via email or in team meetings, to putting incentives in place across the business to reward employees based on performance. One successful way we have implemented this at La Fosse is through our weekly culture nominations where employees leave anonymous nominations for others in the company who have gone out of their way to offer their time, assistance, support or motivation. We then celebrate these at weekly company meetings where a winner is chosen to receive a small gift and a huge round of applause from the whole company.

There are plenty of ways to celebrate wins and show your appreciation for one another in order to promote a positive and happy workplace and workforce, finding what works best for your business is a great way to get started.

To summarise:

“The old ‘people officer’ HR regime operated in a world where if you had a problem, people would say ‘pull yourself together’ and keep going, whereas I think now, we’re seeing more mental health issues coming to the fore. Although the shift to recognising mental health conditions is good, I think the real challenge for employers is how do we destigmatise them, and how do we work to prevent them?”


Where to next?

If you liked this blog, why not check out:

Mental Health: Why it’s better when we talk about it

Maintaining Physical Health and Mental Wellbeing During Your Job Search

Secret Leaders Live: Mental Health Among Tech Entrepreneurs