Mental health in the workplace begins by understanding what employees really need.
From years of consultancy, collaboration, and interviews with leading employers around the globe, it’s clear that conversation is the key to success; organisations must ask what people need from them, and these questions should be asked across every area of the business. (After all, we’re all humans with mental health needs.)
It’s time to talk about mental health
Many of our mental health and wellbeing initiatives are inspired by our colleagues coming forward and having a voice.
Lee Woolcott-Ellis, Mental Health Lead Manager at Southeastern Railway
According to the World Health Organisation, employers will see a return of US $4 in improved health and productivity for every US dollar invested into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders.
Statistics like these were once presented to prove that mental wellbeing is a worthy investment. Thankfully, today it seems the majority of employers no longer need convincing of the business benefits of happy and healthy employees, they also understand that behind every policy and initiative implemented is real people impacted by.
This emphasis on communication is echoed by Reward Gateway’s Head of Global Engagement and Internal Communications, Catrin Lewis, who says:
Lead with communications. You'll understand from the stories what support you need to bring in after.
Creating great mental health initiatives really can be that simple. In fact, according to Woolworths Group Wellbeing Coordinator, Dan Fale, the simpler the better when it comes to offering mental health support:
“Often when we are experiencing a heightened state of emotion it can be difficult for us to know what type of support we need. If an organisation's wellbeing landscape is cluttered with too many programs, it can lead to a team member not accessing the best support for their situation, or worse, it can result in them giving up and not reaching out for help at all.”
You can find a wide range of best practice mental health policies in our recent article, Reducing the stigma of Mental Health .
The people impacted by the policies
From simple initiatives that have lifted spirits during the pandemic to company cultures that have transformed people’s lives, there’s a person behind every policy. Here are some of their stories and insights:
James Holness | Depot Manager, Ashford (Seconded), Southeastern Railway
I’ve accessed the Mental Health Advocate Programme on a couple of occasions after experiencing difficulties in my personal life, as well as at work. Knowing that this facility is available, where I can access any of the advocates, who are able to directly empathise with work-related issues as well as anything else I want to discuss, has been an absolute breath of fresh air.
I would actively encourage anyone to utilise the service if they are concerned about their mental welfare; everything is discussed in the strictest confidence. I’ve caught up with one of the advocates over a cup of coffee in a relaxed environment – and left both meetings feeling refreshed and far more positive about things going forward.
I feel privileged to work for a company that is doing so much to promote mental wellbeing in the workplace and encouraging everyone to look out for their colleagues.
Charlotte Neal | Senior Employee Engagement Specialist, Reward Gateway
Everyone properly cares about our mission and each other, and it's inspiring. I've met some incredible humans both internally and externally, including my now housemate who's shown me the true meaning of kindness. Through Reward Gateway's mental health awareness programme LevelUp! I realised I'd been dealing with anxiety my whole life, and I finally got a diagnosis and help!
Using money from our recognition wellbeing programmes, I paid for personal training sessions, dropped two dress sizes, and now feel happier in myself. Every day I'm supported and encouraged to do my best, and my weekly/monthly/yearly progress is tracked against goals (I'm goal-orientated, who knew!?). I've found a career I truly love... It was a hard decision to move away from journalism but now I'm glad every day that I did.
Katie Lio | Chief Operating Officer, WORK180
Being in lockdown, the last six months have been particularly hard from a mental health and wellbeing perspective. The introduction of a nine-day fortnight has truly opened my eyes to my own ability to time manage and balance my life, and the introduction of a digital based EAP has allowed me to seek resources when I need them without having to make a call.
The little things truly help — meditation to start the week, regular random catch ups with my colleagues via a Slack plugin called Donut, and even a newly introduced monthly (digital) trivia have all really helped lift my spirits while we push through lockdown and beyond.
Steph Naylor | National Marketing, Toyota
I was always proud to work for Toyota Australia, however, this pandemic made me realise just how lucky and appreciative I’m to work for such a supportive and personable organisation. Throughout COVID-19, I unfortunately had two people close to me pass away, making working from home, dealing with a global pandemic and being out of my routine even more difficult.
What has helped me immensely are opportunities Toyota has presented to its employees, such as The Resilience Project’s digital wellbeing series, sessions with one of Australia’s leading experts on women’s health and wellness, Steph Prem, our very own Toyota podcast series with guests such as psychologist Sabina Read and so much more. I even got a surprise package of lasagna, fresh fruit, and vegetables, which meant more than I think the company will ever know.
Toyota hasn't just talked the talk, they have shown through all the initiatives, that have improved our ‘new normal’, that they value us not just as employees, but more like family.
Sarah Husselmann | Senior Manager (FSO Tax), Ernst & Young Australia
I’ve worked at a number of large organisations across Europe and in Australia, and never felt so genuinely supported in taking care of my wellbeing as I do at EY. The range of tools cater to all elements of wellbeing; and all backgrounds and needs – messaging is clear and support readily available.
What I appreciate most is the overriding sense that it’s okay to put myself first and prioritise my wellbeing. The program has taught me to take better care of myself and I’ve learnt first-hand that when I do, I’m more positive and successful all round.
Thank you for sharing your stories
We’d like to thank all participants from WORK180 and our Endorsed Employers for sharing their personal stories and insights. Whether they inspire someone to champion a new policy in their organisation, become an Endorsed Employer, or help people see that supportive employers are out there, your words are sure to help improve the workplace for others.
And as revealed in our recent interviews with Endorsed Employers around the world, the most impactful initiatives have one thing in common: a human-centred approach.
"Collectively we can change that instantly if we all own our piece and acknowledge that attention and care for all aspects of our wellbeing is an incredibly important and necessary thing for us all. I think it is something we should all be striving to improve every day.”
Assistant Commissioner Stephen Smith, Chair of the QFES Mental Health Subcommittee
If working for an organisation that priorities mental health is important to you, we’re here to help. You can find a range of opportunities with our trusted and trailblazing Endorsed Employers — including the progressive companies featured in this article — right here on our jobs page.
About the author
To help women find a workplace that will work for them, we prescreen employers on their gender pay gap data, parental leave policies, flexible working, and more. Find your next role on the WORK180 job board.