The need to support employees and colleagues in managing their mental health is widely recognised, however the wide range of interventions being marketed makes it difficult for employers to know what works.
Launched on the back of increased mental health issues in UK workplaces with a record number of days being lost due to work related stress, a new report aimed at employers, occupational health, and human resources professionals, seeks to “cut through the noise” and identifies what really works.
Written by Dr Kevin Teoh, from Birkbeck, University of London and compiled by the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) and the CIPD, the report,’The Value of Occupational Health and Human Resources in supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace‘ provides guidance on how to better manage workplace mental health and wellbeing. It offers information on how to design programmes and interventions for organisations. It highlights how, by working together, HR and Occupational Health can better support employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
The key to making a difference is a systematic approach to managing mental health and wellbeing, providing health and wellbeing support interventions that are evidence-based and meet the needs of staff. The report recommends primary, secondary, and tertiary interventions:
- Primary level interventions (prevention) – identifying root causes e.g. ensuring workload is manageable, adequate support is available, leadership is compassionate, inclusive, and ethical. Training managers to support the wellbeing of their staff and encourage employees to seek help.
- Secondary level interventions (support) – improving people’s ability to cope with challenging aspects of their roles. Effective strategies include helping staff maintain a healthy balance between their work and personal life.
- Tertiary level interventions (rehabilitation) – focusing on treatment and encourage a safe and healthy return to work. Occupational health, the specialist and expert field of health and wellbeing at work, is a crucial part of the solution.
Society of Occupational Medicine President, Dr Lanre Ogunyemi, said: “This report provides clear evidence-based actions to tackle mental health issues experienced in the workplace. It identifies action proven to make a difference, so professionals can design effective programmes and interventions for their organisations. The UK is in a fortunate position, with specially trained occupational health professionals, but more investment is needed to expand this workforce. We are calling for universal access to occupational health.”
Senior employee wellbeing adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, Rachel Suff, said: “We know that organisations recognise the importance of investing in mental health and wellbeing, but a more systematic and evidence-based approach to workplace health is needed. It is important that HR and OH professionals work together to prevent stress and provide support for employees, ensure managers have adequate training, and to create an open, inclusive culture.”
Dr Kevin Teoh, Senior Lecturer, and the Programme Director of the MSc Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London said: “As more and more organisations recognise the importance of supporting staff mental health and wellbeing it is vital that action here is underpinned by evidence-based practice. In doing so, we need to not only recognise the opportunities and expertise available, but also the limits of one’s competence and abilities.”
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