In mental health as with physical health the mantra of prevention being better than cure is fitting. Maintaining good, healthy habits and routines can make a huge difference to how we feel and can help us all stay well and help prevent mental health worries turning into mental health crises.
How often therefore do employers talk with their employees about taking a proactive approach to mental health and encourage their staff to build good mental health practice into their daily lives? We may talk about the importance of exercise – which itself can support our mental health – but how often we encourage employees to dedicate some time each day to maintaining their mental health using the digital platforms and tools available?
If your answer is not much, or not at all, then perhaps now is the time for you to start.
Mental health is not just about problems
We all have mental health just as we have physical health and we know that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year – something which some research has suggested has increased during COVID. Despite significant recent progress on tackling the stigma of talking about mental health problems, especially in the workplace, it still remains a major issue.
We often hear talk about mental health when it has become a problem and not so much about it just being part of our daily lives. We strongly encourage employers to talk to their employees about viewing mental health not as a problem, but instead about building positive, proactive and healthy approaches to staying mentally fit and well.
We know through our work with organisations that our programmes can make a huge difference to those who are struggling with their mental health – helping them recovery more quickly and return to work – but we also know that proactive engagement with our programmes to help maintain positive, mental health is equally effective. It is critical in our view that employees access our programmes proactively to help stay well and not just to wait until things have gone wrong.
Employers have a crucial role here in encouraging employees to build this sort of day-to-day use of digital tools and platforms into their daily lives. Prevention is definitely better than cure.
There are examples of good practice across many organisations and industries in trying to tackle issues related to mental health at work but too often these are ad hoc initiatives and run the risk of becoming box-ticking exercises and skirting around the big issues. We know that to have real, long-term and sustainable impact on mental health in the workplace it requires a coordinated and planned effort from the employer: a focus on developing, implementing and sustaining a culture of wellbeing and building good mental health routines into daily lives.
Good habits and healthy workplace culture
This culture of wellbeing needs to run through every aspect of the organisation, not just its HR policies. It needs to be part of the physical environment, the cues and signals its leaders send out to staff and the way that business is conducted, day in, day out. A proactive and preventative mental health and wellbeing culture can help an organisation tackle issues like presenteeism, employee burn-out and provide support to employees in helping them find a healthy work-life balance, whilst achieving success for themselves and the organisation.
Managers and organisational leaders should encourage everyone to make some time every day to do something that is just for them. It may be taking a walk in the fresh air each morning; a proper break for lunch with some time away from their desk and computer, perhaps reading a book or listening to music; or something as simple as taking a break every hour for a cup of tea or glass of water.
These small actions can make a big difference to individuals’ wellbeing but also the act of being encouraged to undertake them by their employer can provide a feeling of being valued and supported for the employee. More valued people are often better-performing, more productive people.
Alongside this, proactively accessing the SilverCloud programmes on topics such as resilience, sleep, stress and coping with COVID, can really help employees stay on top of their mental health, stay in work and enjoy their work.
Free eBook to help your organisation
Building this sort of proactive culture that helps employees manage their own mental health and wellbeing, in the same way they are encouraged to maintain their physical health, can help reduce sickness rates, improves the attraction and retention of talented and valued employees and help drive up employee engagement.
With all this in mind, we have developed an eBook which aims to help employers build and implement a proactive and preventative mental health and wellbeing strategy.
It is free to download and is full of practical advice on issues such as policies and environment but also on how to get senior buy-in and secure ongoing engagement with employers and maintain positive, clear communications across the organisation. It also looks in detail at how to manage change to make the new culture stick and examines ways to measure and track success.
The provision of world-leading digital mental health support, such as that available from SilverCloud, can play an important role in supporting employees, but to maximise its impact it should be coupled with positive, proactive employee engagement. In the UK, in June 2020, npj Digital Medicine published peer-reviewed research amongst NHS service users of SilverCloud Health that showed that treating anxiety and depression with such therapy delivered strong clinical improvements and recovery that over a 12-month period were 91% likely to be cost-effective. It was the largest study of its kind worldwide, undertaken with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. It found that more than half of those with a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression recovered after three months.
The experience of NHS staff using SilverCloud showed that users generally returned to the platform after their first visit and spent on average around 20 minutes using it each time. They split their time fairly evenly across the four areas: resilience, stress, COVID-19 and sleep, with stress and resilience being the slightly more popular topics. Users were asked to provide feedback which showed they valued the ‘practical’ nature of the programmes offered, the ‘excellent’ content and its ease of use.
We also know that accessing programmes in advance of things getting difficult for employees can be a big help to helping them stay fit and well. Employers encouraging their workforce to see mental health as something to maintain and not just as something to fix if it goes wrong can make a huge difference.
Take action today
This is such an important topic and getting it right can be the difference between success and failure as an organisation.
Why not download the free eBook here and find out how it could help you and your organisation? Why not open up conversations with your employees about how to see mental health as something to maintain in a healthy, positive, and proactive way? Can you afford to wait until the mental health of your employees is a problem or there is a crisis?