Time to Talk Day: Four ways to boost mental health conversations at work

Time to Talk Day: woman talking animatedly about herself, woman with friends in a cafe

Time to Talk Day (4th February) reminds us that a small conversation can make a big difference to someone’s mental health.

But, with a global pandemic and national lockdown putting a huge strain on everyone’s mental wellbeing, 2021’s Time to Talk Day is more vital than ever. ONS research found that almost one in five adults were likely to be experiencing depression during the coronavirus pandemic, almost doubling from March 2020.

As lockdown restrictions continue to stop us from seeing friends and family, the workplace needs to take an active role in supporting its employees’ with their mental wellbeing during these tougher times.

Employee engagement expert Sodexo Engage has pulled together four ways that employers can help and support employees this Time to Talk Day.

Implement open door policies

 80 per cent of UK adults feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health with their employer. To tackle this discomfort, an open-door policy should be implemented. This means that your employees can turn to you for support at any time and can speak openly about their mental health struggles without fear of judgement or retribution for such honesty. Implementing such a policy can be key to creating a friendly and communicative environment where managers are more approachable.

In a remote world of work, this can mean keeping your phone to hand to any impromptu calls or popping in time for a catch-up video call with your employees. A quick chat can go a long way to help employees overcome their struggles and get the support they need to flourish.

Conduct staff training

A core part of implementing an open-door policy is staff training. While many managers can be empathetic and will do what they can to help their team, sometimes certain things can feel a bit beyond their understanding.  According to Mind, 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.

With training on mental wellbeing, such as mental health first aid training, your managers can have the knowledge and the tactics needed to not only support their people, but also to spot those who need help. Equipped with this know-how, managers can work to take preventative action, cutting down the threat of burnout or a mental health crisis amongst their team.

Provide the resources employees need

A problem shared is a problem halved but talking about a mental health issue is not going to miraculously cure someone’s struggle. Alongside encouraging more communication, employers need to align their perks and benefits to support employee wellbeing.  Mental health benefits should provide employees with access to the professional health they need, like a dedicated Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which can give employees access to accredited counsellors, who can be on hand over the phone or on virtual platforms like Zoom. Sometimes it can be easier for employees to talk to someone completely impartial who they don’t know.

Additionally, wider wellbeing benefits that promote positive physical wellbeing, strengthen social wellbeing, and support financial wellbeing can bolster mental health too, tackling other areas of stress than can crop up in an employees’ life.

Leadership set the example

Leaders are not immune to mental health struggles during the pandemic, with Bupa finding that 78 per cent of business leaders have experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. It’s vital they set the example and get help for their mental wellbeing during this time.

By practising what they preach, be it by taking a mental health day or sharing their use of using an EAP employee benefit, leaders can set the example for employees, which contributes to creating a non-judgemental environment for their team. Opening up about their own mental health struggles, and taking positive action on them, demonstrates that your workplace is one that supports all its employees, from the boardroom to the front lines.

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About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.
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