World Mental Health Day: So much done, so much left to do...

World Mental Health Day on 10th October gives organisations a great chance to reflect upon, assess and improve their approach to this critical issue in the workplace. Mental health concerns are often complex in origin and remain hard to discuss for many, in spite of the greater attention that the challenges now receive. In the midst of the complexity, one thing is very clear: well thought-through organisational strategies around wellbeing – and mental health in particular - are absolutely essential and can be hugely influential in changing the lives of employees for the better.

Research among our 1,500 certified Top Employer organisations globally is encouraging. It shows that wellbeing is now consistently seen as a key business imperative among nearly 4 in 5 organisations (79%) and over 3 in 5 (61%) consistently define an organisation-wide total wellbeing strategy. Communication around wellbeing is seen as essential to success, with almost three-quarters (72%) consistently driving an ongoing company-wide communication campaign on the subject.

Common sense suggests that prevention is always better than cure and our research reflects an enthusiasm for mental wellbeing initiatives supporting the former. Among the many practical and preventative steps undertaken by our Top Employers, over 4 in 5 (82%) give managers an explicit responsibility to encourage the use of vacation time by team members, over 3 in 5 (61%) discourage the use of overtime working, while over 2 in 5 (42%) guarantee time to “unplug” and/or take stress-relief breaks during working hours.

When mental health challenges do become overwhelming for an employee, in spite of good preventative initiatives, over seven in ten (71%) offer stress management, more than 4 in 10 (42%) offer coaching when transitioning support for new life phases (such as parenting of retirement), while over a third (35%) offer burnout recovery support. All of this positive action by these best practice employers, both proactive and reactive, really helps to break the stigma around talking and acting on mental health challenges.

However, we still have #WorldMentalHealthDay – and for good reason. There are still so many other organisations that haven’t recognised, let alone prioritised or acted on mental health challenges. Hopefully the awareness created, alongside the growing number of effective initiatives, can now provide a powerful acceleration for positive change.