How to Promote Positive Mental Health in the Workplace

April 10, 2023
Clock Icon 6 min read

Mental health affects everyone and is important throughout our lives. Therefore, awareness and knowledge of how to promote positive mental health should be a priority for everyone. One place where it is paramount to promote positive mental health is at work, as most people spend around 36 hours a week there.  

In this article, we will outline what mental health in the workplace is, along with some of the common struggles you may recognise. We will also cover the importance of mental health awareness and how you can help promote positive mental health at your place of work.

What is Mental Health in the Workplace?

Mental health is different from mental illnesses in that everyone has mental health, but not everyone has a mental illness. To learn more about mental health, read our article on Types of Mental Health.

Your mental health will fluctuate throughout your life from being positive, negative and somewhere in between. It is important to be able to recognise when you are struggling or feeling low so that you can identify how to improve your own mental health. This will also help you to notice and respond when other people are struggling.   

One factor that can affect your mental health is the environment you are in, such as at home or at work. As mentioned, people spend around 35 hours a week at work, so it is important that it is not having a negative effect on your mental health. 

Work can give people an identity, a team, goals to work towards and a structure to everyday life. On the other hand, however, the workplace can also cause stress and worry, which can lead to poor mental health. 

There are a number of reasons why employees might struggle with their mental health at work, including: 

  • Persistent pressures.
  • Unclear responsibilities. 
  • A poor working environment. 

Reflection point

  • Are you aware of anyone with a mental health problem?
  • Do you actively encourage people to discuss mental health?
  • Do you know how to support those who need a helping hand?
  • Could you bring the topic up? Would it make you uncomfortable?

You may notice that a colleague at work is more tired than usual, quieter than usual or making uncharacteristic mistakes. They may be short-tempered, struggling to keep time or unmotivated. All of these signs can suggest that the individual may be struggling with their mental health and it is everyone’s responsibility to respond appropriately. 

Research shows that in 2021/2022, there were an estimated 914,000 workers affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Therefore, it is important that everyone in the workplace knows how to recognise and respond when a colleague is struggling. It is also crucial that employers promote positive mental health in the workplace and support their employees. 

The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

People spend a lot of time at work, so ensuring that the workplace is a positive and supportive environment should be a top priority. 

There are a number of benefits to promoting positive mental health in the workplace, including: 

  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved staff morale.
  • High-performing employees.
  • Reduced sickness days and staff absence. 
  • Improved staff retention and lower staff turnover
  • Increased innovation. 

As well as promoting positive mental health in the workplace, employers should be equipped to provide support to employees if they are struggling or if issues emerge. As we have outlined, mental health fluctuates throughout our lives. So it is likely that no matter how positive the work environment is, any employee may struggle with their mental health.

A happy cashier serving a customer

Knowledge and awareness of how to recognise and respond to an employee when they are struggling are equally as important as promoting positive mental health. One way to respond if you notice someone is struggling is to talk to them about their mental health. This can sometimes be hard to do, especially with the stigma surrounding mental health, but being open and talking with the individual can make a huge difference and show them that you are there. You can learn more about how to talk about mental health here

expert icon

Looking to Learn More?

Our Mental Health Training Courses are written with experts to provide you with knowledge and awareness of mental health, as well as the necessary skills to support people who are struggling. Take a look at our courses in Mental Health Awareness and Mental Health Awareness for Managers.

How to Support Positive Mental Health at Work

There are many ways that the workplace can promote, encourage and support positive mental health, take a look at the following ideas. 

Start conversations

Encouraging open discussions about mental health can help reduce the stigma and show others that you are there for them. Over time, the topic of mental health will become more and more normal, which will help people feel that they can share when they are struggling. 

Try this: Organise a half an hour one-to-one chat with your team members each month and let them control the conversation. Give each person a chance to talk, whether it’s to ask your advice, get a problem off their chest or simply enjoy a good conversation that they may not have had otherwise. 

Complete mental health training

Training in mental health will help debunk some myths and raise awareness of what mental health is and how you can help others who are struggling. Training can also equip you with tools to help you talk to someone who you think is struggling and educate others. 

Try this: Take a look at our Mental Health Awareness course for employees and Mental Health Awareness for Managers training courses. The courses cover common mental health problems, as well as the symptoms and effects they can have. It also outlines the adjustments you can make to promote positive mental health in the workplace. 

Organise wellness activities

Whilst mental health problems can affect anyone, on any day of the year, dedicating time to wellness activities can help people tune in to how they are feeling and encourage open discussion around mental health. There are many different activities and initiatives you can get involved in or create at work, whether they are full-day activities or 20-minute workshops. 

Try this: Find out when the next wellbeing awareness day or week is and plan a company wide activity or event to mark the date. This could be a workshop, tea break, a fun competition or team-building activity. Anything that will bring attention to the importance of mental health and start discussions around it. 

Assign mental health champions

Mental health champions are a dedicated group of people that can support the organisation’s wellbeing strategy, raise awareness of mental health and provide useful resources for everyone in the company. 

Mental health champions can complete training so that if employees have any questions or concerns regarding mental health, they can reach out to a dedicated mental health champion for support. 

Try this: Put out an advert within the company for recruiting mental health champions to see how many people, and who, would be interested. The advert should include what their role and responsibilities would be as a mental health champion, the aims of the group and what training will be provided to them. 

Promote active listening

Active listening is when you listen with focused intent – when you are truly invested in the speaker and experience empathy towards them. It involves being present and aware, rather than just quiet. Speakers are given the room to explore and assess their thoughts in a safe space. 

Active listening is different to passive listening as it shows you are focused on what the speaker is trying to say. When someone is opening up or talking about their mental health, passive listening and interjections can quickly make them feel as though they are not being heard and will discourage them from talking to you. This can be very damaging if someone is trying to reach out for help or share with you that they are struggling. 

Try this: Next time you have a conversation with someone, rather than thinking about when it will be your turn to speak or thinking about what to say, try to focus on what the person is saying. When they finish speaking, leave a moment for you both to reflect on what has been said before filling the silence by talking. This will give the person space to keep talking if they want to.

Challenge mental health discrimination 

Despite there now being more awareness than ever about mental health, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it. Everyone has a responsibility to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. As an employee, you have a right to raise your concerns regarding any mental health discrimination, as an employer you have a responsibility to take necessary action to challenge mental health discrimination. 

Try this: In your next meeting, as an icebreaker activity, make a list of mental health myths and facts. Open a discussion around whether people think the statements are true or false and discuss each one. This will help to start a conversation around mental health stigma and challenge people’s perceptions. 

Encourage breaks

Taking regular breaks is important for our mental health, especially in the workplace. Depending on where you work, this will be easier for some than others, but regular breaks can include going outside, doing some movement or exercise, being away from your screen, doing a five-minute mindfulness activity or meditation and having an informal chat with others. All of these things may seem small, but they can make a huge difference for our mental health.

Try this: As an employer, actively encourage employees to take their annual leave and to take regular breaks throughout the working day. This could be to make a drink, go for a walk or just go outside for some fresh air. Breaks don’t have to be long, even five minutes every hour will help promote positive mental health. As an employee, take your entitled breaks and take full advantage of your annual leave entitlement. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article and have a greater awareness of how to promote positive mental health in the workplace. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the topics covered in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at High Speed Training! 

Further Resources: