The role of Human Resources professionals extends far beyond paperwork and policies. In today’s fast-paced work environment, advocating for mental health in the workplace is crucial. This blog explores how HR professionals can effectively support the stress levels and mental health of employees in and out of the office. 

Promote open communication

Effective communication is vital for HR success. This is especially true when it comes to addressing mental health concerns. It brings any worries to light before they fester and cause serious issues. They also serve a broader purpose: making your workforce feel heard and valued.

Research shows that managers are heavily burdened with initiating conversations. 84% of employees stated that they rely on their manager for communication. Managers usually organise 1-to-1s within their team to discuss overall well-being and set goals. But outside of these meetings, it’s important that employees have somewhere to go to voice their concerns. This is where the role of HR begins.

When surveyed, a third of managers felt out of their depth supporting their team with mental health issues. So, as HR professionals, it is vital to step in and reduce the mental load. Both for colleagues in management and the benefit of the workforce as a whole. Some strategies to promote communication are anonymous suggestion boxes, open-door policies and group discussions.

The mental health benefits of open conversation extend past specific conversations about well-being. It can mitigate issues before they put strain on an employee’s mental health. Speaking openly regardless of rank or title helps productivity. It clarifies expectations, bonds teams and encourages creativity. It’s an important part of fostering a positive work culture and an environment conducive to great work.

Provide mental health resources

Another aspect of HR is providing the workforce with the resources to make the workplace healthy and productive. This could include free or subsidised therapy and counselling. This both supports employees and shows that the organisation is willing to invest in its workforce. 

Another resource that HR can provide is mindfulness support. Systems like Headspace For Work have a variety of coaching, exercise and support services that employees can access in their own time. For remote workplaces, this can also make well-being support more accessible. 

Encourage work-life balance

88% of UK employees have experienced burnout in the last 2 years. This staggering statistic shows that a shift in workplace culture is imperative. Although flexible working has been a blessing for some, they have made others feel the need to be ‘constantly available’. Smartphones and home offices meant staying hours after 5pm or accessing work files on the weekend became easier than ever before. 

As a HR professional, it’s important that you combat this within your workplace. Discourage overworking and check up on colleagues that are active after work. Almost 3 in 10 British workers say a poor work-life balance has made them less productive and engaged. So, by creating a culture that respects time outside of work, employees are proven to be more productive during work hours. 

Equip managers with mental health training

It’s important that HR departments lessen the burden on managers. But, it’s also important that they feel empowered to deal with issues within their remit. Organisations like Mental Health First Aid England have a variety of courses for managers to develop their skills. These can include conducting conversations around mental health and recognising when to get more information and support. 

Research shows that over 50% of managers are facing burnout. So, finding ways to help these vital members of the workforce is an important step. Development not only helps managers to support their team more effectively, but reduces the stress issues in their team might cause them.

Regularly adapt your strategies

When it comes to mental health, it’s not ‘one size fits all’. Therefore, it’s important to regularly assess the effectiveness of your mental health initiatives. This can help you adapt them based on employee feedback and evolving needs. To foster continuous improvement, stay informed on best practices in mental health support. Then, be proactive in implementing new strategies and resources.

Lead by example

Finally, lead by example by prioritising your own mental health and well-being. This might involve taking regular holidays, not overworking and orchestrating discussions about well-being. Demonstrating self-care practices sets a positive example for your colleagues and reinforces the importance of prioritising mental health in the workplace. Employees might feel less pressure to look after themselves if those around them are doing the same.

By taking steps to support the stress levels and mental health of both in-office and remote employees, HR professionals can create a healthier and more productive work environment. This National Stress Awareness Month, let’s recommit ourselves to fostering a workplace culture that values and prioritises employee well-being, not just for this month, but throughout the year and beyond.