Emily Pearson, Founder & Managing Director of Our Mind’s Work has written about the Good Work Pledge for World Mental Health Day.

This World Mental Health Day falls on October 10th and this year’s theme is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’.

When it comes to employee mental health, no matter where they are in the world, employers can follow a simple framework to ensure we get the best out of people. Creating mentally health workplaces that thrive requires a strategic approach that goes beyond mental health awareness and a focus on the individual, but a wider lens that looks at an approach that can foster a workplace culture through a social-ecological framework.

Our Mind’s Work, understands mental health to be affected by the interactions between the employee, their workplace and communities, and the physical, social, and political environments that they experience. Health professionals, researchers, and community leaders use this social ecological model to identify factors at different levels, the individual, the interpersonal level, the community and societal levels, including policy, that contribute to poor mental health to develop approaches to prevention and health promotion that include action at all levels in an organisation.

Ecological systems theory can be applied to any health and wellbeing topic you want to make improvements with and has been expanded into public health disciplines for health promotion. This is why we endorse and have signed up to ‘The Good Work Pledge’. After all if your fish were all sick and dying in your pond, you wouldn’t just treat the fish.

The Good Work Pledge aligns to the Our Mind’s Work Mental Health Strategy Framework where building a culture that is stigma free and psychologically safe for employees is an essential part of building trust that support will be there for people when they need it.

It also aligns with being an organisation that values employee wellbeing as a key performance indicator, meaning the prevention of work-related stress and psychological injuries cause by work is a number one priority.

The Good Work Pledge:

PILLAR ONE – Valuing and Rewarding Your Workforce

You pay a fair wage, provide extra benefits, provide job security and job fulfilment for your people wherever possible.

Employees work where they feel valued and respected by their employer, leadership and management. Pillar one is an essential part of talent retention and attraction. We are already seeing the impact that the rise in living costs is having on employee mental health and wellbeing, leaving many employees struggling financially.

While work can and should help people escape poverty, it often doesn’t. In the UK, in-work poverty has affected one in eight workers before the current cost of living crisis emerged.

Wagestream, together with the DWP’s Money and Pension Service, produced a State of the Wellbeing report engaging with 10,000 UK employees and 1,000 employers shedding light on financial and mental health with results up to summer 2022. The latest report showed that worries over finances are now common with 72% consumed by money worries at least once a week. An increase from 57% before the crisis began. Financial distress is predicted to increase as we see winter fast approaching, leaving many employees choosing whether to heat or eat.

PILLAR TWO – Promoting Health and Wellbeing

You provide a safe and healthy working environment and provide opportunities for your people to develop healthy lifestyles especially positive mental health.

Poor mental health at work costs the UK economy over 45 billion pounds every year and continues to rise. Good mental health has a positive impact on individuals abilities to thrive, a symptom of that, healthier communities and workplaces. Promoting good mental health and wellbeing is good for people and good for business. However, promoting good mental health and wellbeing must go beyond running mental health awareness campaigns. Creating a mentally healthy workplace comes with a legal duty of care and requires employers to prevent work related stress by doing risk assessments and acting on them.

Employees living with mental health disabilities are also protected by legislation to ensure they are provided with the appropriate support and treatment at work. Though mental health awareness is important, a strategic approach to promoting mental health and wellbeing will help to achieve greater impact for employees and the organisation.

PILLAR THREE – Effective Communications and Representation

You promote trust and fairness by valuing and listening to your employees and involving them throughout the organisation.

Poor communication is often reported as a contributor to work related stress and is one of the HSE’s Management Standards to help workplaces imporve communication and build trust with employees. However, building trust in an organisation takes time and requires genuine leadership, with clear communication and activities that aims to tackle stigma and discrimination and explains why employee mental health and wellbeing is important to leadership. If investments in to mental health and wellbeing are seen as a token gestures by employees this can be detrimental to employee engagement and trust building. This is why engaging, listening and taking action on employee’s feelings about their mental health and wellbeing and what support they think they might need is an essential part of the process.

PILLAR FOUR – Developing a Balanced Workforce

You invest in training and progression for employees – planning for now and for the future. Inclusiveness and equality are central to your work.

Research tells us that our wellbeing is linked to authenticity. When people feel that they need to hide their authentic selves due to the fear of stigma and discrimination, it negatively impacts on mental health, recovery and overall wellbeing. Being committed to DEI means ensuring that employees have access to the support they need from peers, leadership, support services, and health providers. It also means ensuring that workplaces know how to respond to the unique needs of those who are often marginalised or in the minority in the workplace.

PILLAR FIVE – Demonstrate a Social Responsibility

You contribute to our region by buying locally, thinking green and supporting your people to ‘give back’ through volunteering or community action.

Giving back to others through volunteering provides us with a variety of physical and mental health benefits. Providing employees with the opportunity to use some of their working time to volunteer can help to decrease stress, loneliness and isolation, increase feelings of wellbeing, happiness and boost their mood.

Find out more about the Good Work Pledge here.