Top 3 Expert Tips to Optimise Mental Health Across Your Workforce

Annabel Joseph

In the past decade, mental health has exploded as a major concern in the workplace. While some companies are finally aligning physical and mental wellbeing, a significant gap remains. A chasm persists between understanding the triggers and consequences of poor mental health at work and taking action to prevent it. In fact, nearly half of employees feel their organisations lack concrete plans to identify and support those struggling.

So, how can businesses bridge this gap and create a work environment that truly prioritises mental health and wellbeing? There are a number of ways business leaders can take an active approach to address the negative business impacts of poor mental health. From flexible working arrangements to technological solutions, and even AI-powered wellbeing tools, there is a range of options to help improve mental health across the team.

Tip 1: Flexibility over Fixation

Employees often struggle with a lack of control over their work location, which can negatively impact their wellbeing. Recent research from Mental Health UK underscores this, showing that 30% of employees attributed poor mental health due to a fixed working environment, compared to just 14% of hybrid workers. This isn’t surprising. The goal is to achieve a work-life equilibrium, ensuring employee wellbeing aligns with the operational needs of the business.

Remote and hybrid work models are now a well-established preference for many employees, particularly working parents. These parents often juggle demanding schedules with childcare drop-offs, school events, and unexpected situations at home. The flexibility offered by these models allows them to adjust their work priorities and schedules around these responsibilities, alleviating external pressures and promoting a healthy work-life balance. Feeling more in control of their workload empowers employees to stay on top of deadlines to deliver positive results for the business.

Tip 2: Boost Productivity and Wellbeing with Technology

No matter where you work, completing daily tasks and managing responsibilities is essential for workplace happiness. However, managing heavy workloads can be challenging, especially during economic downturns that force businesses to make budget cuts or freeze hiring. This can lead to employees feeling overwhelmed and burnt out due to working unpaid overtime, according to Mental Health UK.

Technology offers a solution to minimise the stress of excessive workloads. Using technology productively can help to free up time for more important tasks. For example, HR departments spend significant time on routine tasks like payroll, benefits administration, and processing absence requests. AI-powered HR systems can automate these activities, freeing up HR professionals for more strategic and people-focused tasks, boosting overall efficiency.

AI chatbots can expand beyond traditional job functions and be tailored towards mental health support. These AI wellbeing assistants provide a safe space for employees who might initially feel apprehensive about talking directly with their manager. They can offer confidential support and a wider range of resources, summarising company wellness policies and connecting employees with appropriate wellbeing and counselling programmes. As employees get comfortable using these tools, a culture of trust and openness surrounding AI wellbeing assistance will grow, paving the way for wider adoption and even greater benefits.

Tip 3: Open Conversations are Just as Important

While AI wellbeing bots offer a valuable new layer to mental health support systems, human interaction remains irreplaceable. Employees appreciate working alongside supportive colleagues, with a recent study highlighting that having a supportive line manager at work (43%), and network of colleagues (42%) were key factors in helping to alleviate stress and prevent burnout. Regular, open conversations initiated by leadership are the crucial first step to increasing support and putting emotional intelligence at the forefront of employee humanity. These check-ins should be facilitated by line managers encouraging open communication with questions like “how are you feeling?”. This can help to build a strong foundation of mental health awareness from the get-go, removing any negative stigma in the process.

Open conversations also go beyond the level of creating a positive wellbeing for your workforce and can actually improve productivity. According to research from McKinsey Institute, employees who feel included in detailed workplace communication are nearly 5 times more likely to report increased productivity. By enabling a culture of inclusivity creating safe spaces, leaders can empower employees to develop deeper work relationships and communication, ultimately maximising productivity.

The bottom line is that supporting mental wellbeing is a shared responsibility between the employer and employees. However, leadership plays a vital role. By embracing technology, promoting open communication, and prioritising a culture of wellbeing, businesses can create a happier and healthier workforce and unlock significant productivity gains. Remember, over half (53%) of employees who experience high role clarity, meaning a clear understanding of their responsibilities and expectations, and open communication see an 83% increase in productivity. Isn't a thriving workforce worth the investment?

About the author
Director of People at Applaud. She is a member of the Senior Leadership Team and contributes to shaping the company's direction. Annabel's professional journey, marked by diverse sectors and international experience has led to her role in HR technology, a true passion of hers given the relatable field. Annabel is CIPD level 7 qualified and holds a bachelor law degree.

Written by
June 5, 2024
Written by
Annabel Joseph