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Building blocks of a mentally healthy workplace
  1. Emma Mamo

Abstract

As an employer, you have a legal duty of care to those you employ. But have you considered that that duty extends to supporting their mental health? Here Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, suggests some ways to go about building a mentally healthy working environment.

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Emma Mamo is head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind

For Mind’s annual Workplace Wellbeing Index, we recently surveyed 44,000 staff across 100 employers. The research showed that more than seven in 10 people in work say they have experienced mental health problems in their lives, while 53 per cent said they were affected by poor mental health in their current workplace.

Mental health problems won’t necessarily impact on someone’s ability to perform their job well, providing they are properly supported

Frequently cited causes of stress include long working hours, excessive workloads and relatively low wages – all of which are commonplace in veterinary practice.

On top of this, working in the sector comes with a unique set of challenges such as the responsibility to deliver high-quality care, dealing with extreme highs and lows, and sharing difficult news with owners.

So how can veterinary employers and managers create mentally healthy workplaces, in which wellbeing is both promoted and supported?

Encourage conversations. Start by talking about general wellbeing. Make time to ask your colleagues how they’re feeling in a place where they’ll feel comfortable – whether that’s while you’re grabbing a coffee or in a private catch up. If there is an open culture at work staff are more likely to feel able to speak up if they’re struggling with stress or mental wellbeing.

Consider supporting staff to develop wellness action plans. Available for free from Mind’s website, wellness action plans are useful ways of having conversations about mental health. Drawn up jointly by managers and staff, they can help someone identify their unique triggers for poor mental health as well as what helps them stay well.

Ensure debriefs happen. After facing a challenging or traumatic situation, having a debriefing is really important. If you’re a manager, try to be patient and non-judgemental during these conversations. Mental health problems won’t necessarily impact on someone’s ability to perform their job well, providing they are properly supported.

Consider providing an independent employee assistance programme. These employer-paid schemes make it possible for staff to speak to someone confidentially when they’re struggling. Some also offer counselling or other therapies.

Build your knowledge and skills around workplace wellbeing. Mind, with support from the Royal Foundation and 11 partners, has produced the Mental Health at Work website (www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk). It features a range of information about workplace wellbeing, for both employees and employers.

Consider signing up to Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index. Employers committed to creating mentally healthy working cultures can sign up to Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index. This benchmarking tool enables employers to celebrate the good work they’re doing to promote mental wellbeing and get support to do this even better.

Evaluations of workplace mental wellbeing interventions by Deloitte show a return of £1.50 to £9 for every £1 invested. When we hear from employers that are prioritising workplace wellbeing, we hear about happier, more engaged and more productive staff who are less likely to need to take time off sick. That surely has to be a benefit all round.

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