Taking a Positive Approach to Mental Health at Work

In recent years, the issue of mental health has risen rapidly up the agenda of companies of all sizes, industries and sectors. New research from Business in the Community’s National Employee Wellbeing survey states that 77% of employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health at some point in their lives, with over a quarter having been diagnosed with a mental health issue (29%).

Thankfully, this kind of research happens far more frequently than it used to, shining a light on a previously overlooked topic. The sad reality, though, is that the statistics suggest mental health in the UK seems to be getting worse, not better. Although some of this may be attributed to a positive development - that more people feel able to report their mental health issues - it is clear that a lot of work still needs to be done to address the causes and symptoms of mental ill-health.

It is incumbent on businesses, as a key pillar of civil society, to respond to what is approaching a crisis in mental health. And this is not only the moral and right thing to do; the productivity gains that come from fostering a happy and engaged workforce makes sound business sense too.

The most important thing an organisation can do is create the supportive, trusting and open culture that enables people who are suffering to speak up, approach their line manager and HR and say “I’m not feeling okay right now”. However, the ways in which companies can support the mental health of their employees are multifaceted, and a holistic approach is best.

At Onfido, we have a focus on employee well-being. For instance, we cover 50% of the gym and exercise costs of our employees. We encourage the team to take regular breaks throughout the day: either to play pool, read a book in our library or go outside for a walk.

As a company, we also prioritise socialising, having fun and building relationships within local teams and across the company. Our full-time Employee Experience Manager organises regular company socials (everything from sushi making to ceilidh dancing!) and dinners, and we also provide language lessons (French, Spanish and English) for anybody interested. Action for Happiness' ‘10 Keys to Happier Living’ encourages learning new skills as a way to foster well-being, and we’ve found it really helps Onfidoers feel happier and more fulfilled at work.

When mental illness does occur, line manager support is absolutely crucial. However, the Business in the Community survey showed that while 76% of line managers believe employee well-being is their responsibility, only 22% have received some form of training on mental health at work.

This is an area we have tried to address at Onfido. Last week, we organised a one day mental health awareness training session for line managers, run by a Mental Health England First Aid instructor. We plan to hold another session for our newer line managers too, to keep improving mental health literacy within Onfido and best enable the right kind of understanding and support required to tackle issues when they occur.

We know that there is always room to keep learning and improving when it comes to mental health and are keen to stay on the front foot. With that in mind, we’re very open to working collaboratively with other companies and organisations to share learning, best practice and advice.

As they say, sharing is caring; so if this is of interest and you would like to get in touch, please contact me at harry.richardson@onfido.com.

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Harry is HR Manager at Onfido.
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