Although mental health is often in the media and more openly discussed than in the past, in the workplace it’s still a difficult topic to raise. In a study conducted by Accenture for This Can Happen—a major UK conference on workplace mental health attended by the Duke of Cambridge—half of the 2170 UK workers we surveyed felt that raising a concern about their mental health might impact their career or prevent them from being promoted.
The Duke of Cambridge joins in a panel discussion
But our study revealed the emergence of a different kind of workplace where helping workers maintain a healthy mind is part of their DNA.
First, we found that it is good to talk. Most (81 percent) of those who opened up had a positive reaction (one of empathy, support and kindness) from the first person they told at work. Perhaps not surprisingly people turn first to a colleague. Everyone recognizes the importance of training line managers and HR professionals in mental health awareness but the fact that people turn first to a peer, highlights just how important it is that everyone in the work place is involved and knows how to listen and where colleagues can go to access professional advice.
Perhaps the most exciting finding in our research came when we focused in on a small group of employees—about 10 percent of our sample—where the workplace culture is truly open and supportive when it comes to mental health. In these companies, for example:
People have a work—life balance that supports good mental health
Colleagues going through a challenging time with their mental health are supported
Mental health challenges aren’t seen as a weakness
In these supportive environments mental health is a subject that’s out in the open; people find it easier to talk about it, they are much more likely to know where to go for support and even more likely than in other organizations to have a positive reaction when they open up for the first time.
The companies these employees work for are addressing mental health differently and creating environments were people do feel safe to talk. Here’s how to get started:
Make it about everyone: Mental health is something that everyone has. It’s on a spectrum from good to bad, that differs from person to person and from time to time. It requires a range of interventions that are relevant across that spectrum: from the maintenance of good mental health to policies and practices that support those with more serious conditions.
Start a conversation: Raising the issue though conversations led by senior executives and employees can help break down the stigma.
Implement best practice when it comes to mental health programmes. A starting point for guidance is the code of standards published in the Thriving at Work in the Stevenson-Farmer review.
I go to many conferences, but this was a truly special one. Over 750 people representing over 100 employers shared their passion and practical solutions for helping workers to thrive and to tackle the stigma around mental health. And it’s not every day you get to be on the same stage as the future King of England!
On behalf of “This Can Happen” Accenture surveyed 2170 working men and women across the United Kingdom. The full results can be found in our report “It's not one in 4, it's all of us—why mental health touches everyone,” November 2018.