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By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute
By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute

How Organisations are Reshaping their Work Environments to Promote Mental Health

World Mental Health Day 2022


People spend significant periods of time at their workplace. The time that they spend at work has a significant effect on their mental health, and many organisations are placing a larger emphasis on the opportunities and risks their work environment has on the mental health of their employees. On World Mental Health Day 2022, we are focusing in on the role that organisations, especially Top Employers, play in promoting good mental health among their employees and how they can work to not only reduce work-related stress and enhance mental and physical health. When mental health is prioritised by organisations it is likely to reduce rates of absenteeism, improve workplace productivity and performance, as well as improving employee experiences at work.

While World Mental Health Day is an opportune time to concentrate our attention on mental health and well-being at work it must be underscored that it is not the only time that organisations should evaluate their policies. We have focused in our mental health earlier this year in some of our other Insights articles including one that focused on the lasting impact of burnout, another on how community can help to tackle workplace stress, we also had a webinar with Discovery South Africa around how they support mental wellbeing, and we went into the mind of the HRD to understand more about Mental Health at Work.

Top Employers and Mental Health in 2022

Almost all (95%) Top Employers in 2022 see well-being as a key business imperative with 77.65% of these organisations having an organisation-wide total well-being strategy. These numbers show that employee’s mental health, and its close relationship with well-being, is being seen as a crucial part of an employee’s experience at their workplace. But how are Top Employers, and other leading organisations, showing that it is important not only in words but also in noticeable actions that is felt by their employees. Many are promoting initiatives and policies focused on supporting the well-being of their employees.

Initiatives and Policies to Promote Well-being and Mental Health

There are many ways that organisations can enact policies that are likely to positively affect the mental health of their employees. Some of these include:

  • Discouraging overtime
  • Encouraging the use of vacation time (and this is done by making it an explicit part of a manager’s list of responsibilities)
  • A vacation embargo (this is the use of do not disturb while an employee is on holiday)
  • The use of email outside of office hours is discouraged
  • Guarantee time for employees to ‘unplug’ and/or take stress relief breaks during the workday
  • Encourage employees to participate in community health events

Preventative Well-being Offerings from Top Employers

As many Top Employers attempt to take a holistic approach to addressing the concerns of their employees regarding their mental health and well-being, many have thought around ways to address the issue before it is felt by employees. While these are not equally represented amongst all Top Employers some preventative offerings include:

  • Mindfulness and meditation programmes
  • Health days
  • Awareness programmes around anti-harassment and bullying in the workplace
  • Personal development programmes
  • Self-awareness programmes
  • Programmes focused on healthy relations at work and programmes focused on how employees can cope with information overload at work

Changing Workplace Culture to Affect Mental Health Outcomes

Organisations that welcome in these preventative well-being offerings and companies enact policies and initiatives to improve the mental health outcomes of their employees are making key first steps to meeting the needs of their staff. However, it is important to be aware that it is not enough to enact real change that is long lasting in a company. To truly meet the changing needs of their employees, organisations will need prioritise creating and maintaining a culture of psychological safety and holistic well-being.

Creating a culture around a certain belief requires leadership structures and employees to come together to work to create a shared perspective around mental health and well-being. As touched upon in our World of Work Trends Report (which is available for download now) organisations that embrace the involvement of their employees are more likely to benefit from any initiatives and/or policies that come as a result.

Organisations that concentrate on creating a culture around being aware of and addressing the needs of their employees will be able to be more knowledgeable as they reshape their current working conditions. While it may be easier for organisations to see this work as a one time necessity it is not static and will need to continue to be constructed, reconstructed and deconstructed as the needs of people continue to change.

Final Thoughts

In 2022 organisations that embrace the challenges of creating a culture mental health related well-being in their workplace to support the mental health of their employees will reap the benefits of a supported workforce. While this work is guided by leaders in the organisation, the most successful organisations will work with employees across the organisation to support their initiatives.